Volume 612, April 2018
|Number of page(s)
|Planets and planetary systems
|01 May 2018
Modeling climate diversity, tidal dynamics and the fate of volatiles on TRAPPIST-1 planets
Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, IPSL, Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, CNRS,
4 place Jussieu,
2 Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/DRF - CNRS - Université Paris Diderot, IRFU/SAp Centre de Saclay, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
3 Laboratoire d’astrophysique de Bordeaux, Univ. Bordeaux, CNRS, B18N, allée Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 33615 Pessac, France
4 Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique, UMR-CNRS 6112, University of Nantes, 2 rue de la Houssinière, 44322 Nantes, France
5 Département de géosciences, École Normale Supérieure, PSL Research University, 75005 Paris, France
6 Space Sciences, Technologies and Astrophysics Research (STAR) Institute, Université de Liège, Allée du 6 Août 19C, 4000 Liège, Belgium
Accepted: 28 December 2017
TRAPPIST-1 planets are invaluable for the study of comparative planetary science outside our solar system and possibly habitability. Both transit timing variations (TTV) of the planets and the compact, resonant architecture of the system suggest that TRAPPIST-1 planets could be endowed with various volatiles today. First, we derived from N-body simulations possible planetary evolution scenarios, and show that all the planets are likely in synchronous rotation. We then used a versatile 3D global climate model (GCM) to explore the possible climates of cool planets around cool stars, with a focus on the TRAPPIST-1 system. We investigated the conditions required for cool planets to prevent possible volatile species to be lost permanently by surface condensation, irreversible burying or photochemical destruction. We also explored the resilience of the same volatiles (when in condensed phase) to a runaway greenhouse process. We find that background atmospheres made of N2, CO, or O2 are rather resistant to atmospheric collapse. However, even if TRAPPIST-1 planets were able to sustain a thick background atmosphere by surviving early X/EUV radiation and stellar wind atmospheric erosion, it is difficult for them to accumulate significant greenhouse gases like CO2, CH4, or NH3. CO2 can easily condense on the permanent nightside, forming CO2 ice glaciers that would flow toward the substellar region. A complete CO2 ice surface cover is theoretically possible on TRAPPIST-1g and h only, but CO2 ices should be gravitationally unstable and get buried beneath the water ice shell in geologically short timescales. Given TRAPPIST-1 planets large EUV irradiation (at least ~103 × Titan’s flux), CH4 and NH3 are photodissociated rapidly and are thus hard to accumulate in the atmosphere. Photochemical hazes could then sedimentate and form a surface layer of tholins that would progressively thicken over the age of the TRAPPIST-1 system. Regarding habitability, we confirm that few bars of CO2 would suffice to warm the surface of TRAPPIST-1f and g above the melting point of water. We also show that TRAPPIST-1e is a remarkable candidate for surface habitability. If the planet is today synchronous and abundant in water, then it should very likely sustain surface liquid water at least in the substellar region, whatever the atmosphere considered.
Key words: stars: individual: TRAPPIST-1 / planets and satellites: terrestrial planets / planets and satellites: atmospheres / planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability / astrobiology
© ESO 2018
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