Atmospheric constraints for the CO2 partial pressure on terrestrial planets near the outer edge of the habitable zone
Univ. Bordeaux, LAB, UMR 5804,
2 CNRS, LAB, UMR 5804, 33270 Floirac, France
3 Institut für Planetenforschung, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Rutherfordstr. 2, 12489 Berlin, Germany
4 Zentrum für Astronomie und Astrophysik (ZAA), Technische Universität Berlin, Hardenbergstr. 36, 10623 Berlin, Germany
Received: 25 May 2012
Accepted: 15 November 2012
Context. In recent years, several potentially habitable, probably terrestrial exoplanets and exoplanet candidates have been discovered. The amount of CO2 in their atmosphere is of great importance for surface conditions and habitability. In the absence of detailed information on the geochemistry of the planet, this amount could be considered as a free parameter.
Aims. Up to now, CO2 partial pressures for terrestrial planets have been obtained assuming an available volatile reservoir and outgassing scenarios. This study aims at calculating the allowed maximum CO2 pressure at the surface of terrestrial exoplanets orbiting near the outer boundary of the habitable zone by coupling the radiative effects of the CO2 and its condensation at the surface. These constraints might limit the permitted amount of atmospheric CO2, independent of the planetary reservoir.
Methods. A 1D radiative-convective cloud-free atmospheric model was used to calculate surface conditions for hypothetical terrestrial exoplanets. CO2 partial pressures are fixed according to surface temperature and vapor pressure curve. Considered scenarios cover a wide range of parameters, such as gravity, central star type and orbital distance, atmospheric N2 content and surface albedo.
Results. Results show that for planets in the habitable zone around K-, G-, and F-type stars the allowed CO2 pressure is limited by the vapor pressure curve and not by the planetary reservoir. The maximum CO2 pressure lies below the CO2 vapor pressure at the critical point of pcrit = 73.8 bar. For M-type stars, due to the stellar spectrum being shifted to the near-IR, CO2 pressures above pcrit are possible for almost all scenarios considered across the habitable zone. This implies that determining CO2 partial pressures for terrestrial planets by using only geological models is probably too simplified and might over-estimate atmospheric CO2 towards the outer edge of the habitable zone.
Key words: planets and satellites: atmospheres / planets and satellites: composition
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