Molecular abundances and C/O ratios in chemically evolving planet-forming disk midplanes
Leiden Observatory, Leiden University,
PO Box 9513,
RA Leiden, The Netherlands
2 School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
3 Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik, Giessenbachstrasse 1, 85748 Garching, Germany
Accepted: 21 September 2017
Context. Exoplanet atmospheres are thought be built up from accretion of gas as well as pebbles and planetesimals in the midplanes of planet-forming disks. The chemical composition of this material is usually assumed to be unchanged during the disk lifetime. However, chemistry can alter the relative abundances of molecules in this planet-building material.
Aims. We aim to assess the impact of disk chemistry during the era of planet formation. This is done by investigating the chemical changes to volatile gases and ices in a protoplanetary disk midplane out to 30 AU for up to 7 Myr, considering a variety of different conditions, including a physical midplane structure that is evolving in time, and also considering two disks with different masses.
Methods. An extensive kinetic chemistry gas-grain reaction network was utilised to evolve the abundances of chemical species over time. Two disk midplane ionisation levels (low and high) were explored, as well as two different makeups of the initial abundances (“inheritance” or “reset”).
Results. Given a high level of ionisation, chemical evolution in protoplanetary disk midplanes becomes significant after a few times 105 yr, and is still ongoing by 7 Myr between the H2O and the O2 icelines. Inside the H2O iceline, and in the outer, colder regions of the disk midplane outside the O2 iceline, the relative abundances of the species reach (close to) steady state by 7 Myr. Importantly, the changes in the abundances of the major elemental carbon and oxygen-bearing molecules imply that the traditional “stepfunction” for the C/O ratios in gas and ice in the disk midplane (as defined by sharp changes at icelines of H2O, CO2 and CO) evolves over time, and cannot be assumed fixed, with the C/O ratio in the gas even becoming smaller than the C/O ratio in the ice. In addition, at lower temperatures (<29 K), gaseous CO colliding with the grains gets converted into CO2 and other more complex ices, lowering the CO gas abundance between the O2 and CO thermal icelines. This effect can mimic a CO iceline at a higher temperature than suggested by its binding energy.
Conclusions. Chemistry in the disk midplane is ionisation-driven, and evolves over time. This affects which molecules go into forming planets and their atmospheres. In order to reliably predict the atmospheric compositions of forming planets, as well as to relate observed atmospheric C/O ratios of exoplanets to where and how the atmospheres have formed in a disk midplane, chemical evolution needs to be considered and implemented into planet formation models.
Key words: protoplanetary disks / planets and satellites: formation / astrochemistry / planetary and satellites: atmospheres
© ESO 2018