EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 461, Number 3, January III 2007
Page(s) 1185 - 1193
Section Planets and planetary systems
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20065014
Published online 16 October 2006

A&A 461, 1185-1193 (2007)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20065014

A diagram to determine the evaporation status of extrasolar planets

A. Lecavelier des Etangs

Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, CNRS, UMR7095: Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris6, 98bis boulevard Arago, 75014 Paris, France
    e-mail: lecaveli@iap.fr

(Received 13 February 2006 / Accepted 26 September 2006)

Aims.To describe the evaporation status of extrasolar planets, we consider an energy diagram in which the potential energy of the planets is plotted versus the energy received by the upper atmosphere.
Methods.Here we present a basic method to estimate these quantities. For the potential energy, we include the modification of the gravity field by the tidal forces from the parent stars.
Results.This description allows a rapid estimate of both the escape rate of the atmospheric gas and the lifetime of a planet against the evaporation process. In the energy diagram, we find an evaporation-forbidden region in which a gaseous planet would evaporate in less than 5 billion years. With their observed characteristics, all extrasolar planets are found outside this evaporation-forbidden region. The escape rates are estimated to be in the range 105 g s-1 to 1012 g s-1, with a few cases above 1011 g s-1. The estimated escape rate for HD 209458 b is consistent with the lower limit of 1010 g s-1 obtained from interpretation of the H I Lyman-$\alpha$ observations.

This diagram suggests possibilities for the nature of the recently discovered Neptune-mass planets. We find that GJ 436 b, 55 Cnc e and HD 69830 b cannot be low mass gaseous planets. With a density that must be above 0.5 g cm-3 to survive evaporation, these planets must contain a large fraction of solid/liquid material. We find that GJ 876 d must have a density greater than ~3 g cm-3 to survive the strong EUV energy flux from its nearby parent star. GJ 876 d must contain a large fraction of massive elements.

Key words: stars: planetary systems

© ESO 2007

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