Volume 582, October 2015
|Number of page(s)||9|
|Section||Planets and planetary systems|
|Published online||08 October 2015|
Radiative braking in the extended exosphere of GJ 436 b
Observatoire de l’Université de Genève,
51 chemin des Maillettes,
2 Institut d’astrophysique de Paris, UMR 7095 CNRS, Université Pierre & Marie Curie, 98bis boulevard Arago, 75014 Paris, France
Received: 3 July 2015
Accepted: 20 August 2015
The recent detection of a giant exosphere surrounding the warm Neptune GJ 436 b has shed new light on the evaporation of close-in planets, revealing that moderately irradiated, low-mass exoplanets could make exceptional targets for studying this mechanism and its impact on the exoplanet population. Three HST/STIS observations were performed in the Lyman-α line of GJ 436 at different epochs, showing repeatable transits with large depths and extended durations. Here, we study the role played by stellar radiation pressure on the structure of the exosphere and its transmission spectrum. We found that the neutral hydrogen atoms in the exosphere of GJ 436 b are not swept away by radiation pressure as shown to be the case for evaporating hot Jupiters. Instead, the low radiation pressure from the M-dwarf host star only brakes the gravitational fall of the escaping hydrogen toward the star and allows its dispersion within a large volume around the planet, yielding radial velocities up to about –120 km s -1 that match the observations. We performed numerical simulations with the EVaporating Exoplanets (EVE) code to study the influence of the escape rate, the planetary wind velocity, and the stellar photoionization. While these parameters are instrumental in shaping the exosphere and yield simulation results in general agreement with the observations, the spectra observed at the different epochs show specific, time-variable features that require additional physics.
Key words: stars: individual: GJ 436 / planets and satellites: atmospheres
© ESO, 2015
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