Volume 597, January 2017
|Number of page(s)||14|
|Section||Planets and planetary systems|
|Published online||19 December 2016|
No hydrogen exosphere detected around the super-Earth HD 97658 b
1 Observatoire de l’Université de Genève, 51 chemin des Maillettes, 1290 Sauverny, Switzerland
2 Institut d’astrophysique de Paris, UMR 7095 CNRS, Université Pierre & Marie Curie, 98bis boulevard Arago, 75014 Paris, France
3 Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
Received: 5 July 2016
Accepted: 2 September 2016
The exoplanet HD 97658 b provides a rare opportunity to probe the atmospheric composition and evolution of moderately irradiated super-Earths. It transits a bright K star at a moderate orbital distance of 0.08 au. Its low density is compatible with a massive steam envelope that could photodissociate at high altitudes and become observable as escaping neutral hydrogen. Our analysis of three transits with HST/STIS at Lyman-α reveals no such signature, suggesting that the thermosphere of HD 97658 b is not hydrodynamically expanding and is subjected to a low escape of neutral hydrogen (<108 g s-1 at 3σ). Using HST/STIS Lyman-α observations and Chandra/ACIS-S and XMM-Newton/EPIC X-ray observations at different epochs, we find that HD 97658 is in fact a weak and soft X-ray source with signs of chromospheric variability in the Lyman-α line core. We determine an average reference for the intrinsic Lyman-α line and X-EUV (XUV) spectrum of the star, and show that HD 97658 b is in mild conditions of irradiation compared to other known evaporating exoplanets with an XUV irradiation about three times lower than the evaporating warm Neptune GJ436 b. This could be the reason why the thermosphere of HD 97658 b is not expanding: the low XUV irradiation prevents an efficient photodissociation of any putative steam envelope. Alternatively, it could be linked to a low hydrogen content or inefficient conversion of the stellar energy input. The HD 97658 system provides clues for understanding the stability of low-mass planet atmospheres in terms of composition, planetary density, and irradiation. Our study of HD 97658 b can be seen as a control experiment of our methodology, confirming that it does not bias detections of atmospheric escape and underlining its strength and reliability. Our results show that stellar activity can be efficiently discriminated from absorption signatures by a transiting exospheric cloud. They also highlight the potential of observing the upper atmosphere of small transiting planets to probe their physical and chemical properties.
Key words: techniques: spectroscopic / planets and satellites: individual: HD 97658 b / stars: individual: HD 97658
© ESO, 2016
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