Volume 647, March 2021
|Number of page(s)||19|
|Section||Planets and planetary systems|
|Published online||05 March 2021|
Detectability of biosignatures on LHS 1140 b
Zentrum für Astronomie und Astrophysik, Technische Universität Berlin,
2 Institut für Planetenforschung, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Rutherfordstraße 2, 12489 Berlin, Germany
3 Institut für Methodik der Fernerkundung, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, 82234 Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
4 Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
5 Institut für Geologische Wissenschaften, Freie Universität Berlin, Malteserstr. 74-100, 12249 Berlin, Germany
Accepted: 20 December 2020
Context. Terrestrial extrasolar planets around low-mass stars are prime targets when searching for atmospheric biosignatures with current and near-future telescopes. The habitable-zone super-Earth LHS 1140 b could hold a hydrogen-dominated atmosphere, and is an excellent candidate for detecting atmospheric features.
Aims. In this study we investigate how the instellation and planetary parameters influence the atmospheric climate, chemistry, and spectral appearance of LHS 1140 b. We study the detectability of selected molecules, in particular potential biosignatures, with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and Extremely Large Telescope (ELT).
Methods. In the first step we used the coupled climate–chemistry model 1D-TERRA to simulate a range of assumed atmospheric chemical compositions dominated by molecular hydrogen (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2). In addition, we varied the concentrations of methane (CH4) by several orders of magnitude. In the second step we calculated transmission spectra of the simulated atmospheres and compared them to recent transit observations. Finally, we determined the observation time required to detect spectral bands with low-resolution spectroscopy using JWST, and the cross-correlation technique using ELT.
Results. In H2-dominated and CH4-rich atmospheres oxygen (O2) has strong chemical sinks, leading to low concentrations of O2 and ozone (O3). The potential biosignatures ammonia (NH3), phosphine (PH3), chloromethane (CH3Cl), and nitrous oxide (N2O) are less sensitive to the concentration of H2, CO2, and CH4 in the atmosphere. In the simulated H2-dominated atmosphere the detection of these gases might be feasible within 20 to 100 observation hours with ELT or JWST when assuming weak extinction by hazes.
Conclusions. If further observations of LHS 1140 b suggest a thin, clear, hydrogen-dominated atmosphere, the planet would be one of the best known targets to detect biosignature gases in the atmosphere of a habitable-zone rocky exoplanet with upcoming telescopes.
Key words: planets and satellites: terrestrial planets / planets and satellites: detection / planets and satellites: composition / planets and satellites: atmospheres / techniques: spectroscopic / astrochemistry
© ESO 2021
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