Volume 529, May 2011
|Number of page(s)||14|
|Section||Planets and planetary systems|
|Published online||21 March 2011|
Potential biosignatures in super-Earth atmospheres
I. Spectral appearance of super-Earths around M dwarfs
Institut für Planetenforschung, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Rutherfordstraße 2, 12489 Berlin, Germany
2 Zentrum für Astronomie und Astrophysik, Technische Universität Berlin, Hardenbergstraße 36, 10623 Berlin, Germany
3 Université de Bordeaux, Observatoire Aquitain des Sciences de l’Univers, 2 rue de l’Observatoire, BP 89, 33271 Floirac Cedex, France
4 CNRS, UMR 5804, Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux, 2 rue de l’Observatoire, BP 89, 33271 Floirac Cedex, France
5 Institut für Methodik der Fernerkundung, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt 82234 Oberpfaffenhofen-Wessling, Germany
Received: 5 March 2010
Accepted: 28 January 2011
Atmospheric temperature and mixing ratio profiles of terrestrial planets vary with the spectral energy flux distribution for different types of M-dwarf stars and the planetary gravity. We investigate the resulting effects on the spectral appearance of molecular absorption bands, which are relevant as indicators for potential planetary habitability during primary and secondary eclipse for transiting terrestrial planets with Earth-like biomass emissions. Atmospheric profiles are computed using a plane-parallel, 1D climate model coupled with a chemistry model. We then calculate simulated spectra using a line-by-line radiative transfer model.
We find that emission spectra during secondary eclipse show increasing absorption of methane, water, and ozone for planets orbiting quiet M0–M3 dwarfs and the active M-type star AD Leo compared with solar-type central stars. However, for planets orbiting very cool and quiet M dwarfs (M4 to M7), increasing temperatures in the mid-atmosphere lead to reduced absorption signals, which impedes the detection of molecules in these scenarios. Transmission spectra during primary eclipse show strong absorption features of CH4, N2O and H2O for planets orbiting quiet M0–M7 stars and AD Leo. The N2O absorption of an Earth-sized planet orbiting a quiet M7 star can even be as strong as the CO2 signal. However, ozone absorption decreases for planets orbiting these cool central stars owing to chemical effects in the atmosphere. To investigate the effect on the spectroscopic detection of absorption bands with potential future satellite missions, we compute signal-to-noise-ratios (SNR) for a James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)-like aperture telescope.
Key words: astrobiology / radiative transfer / planets and satellites: atmospheres
© ESO, 2011
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