Rubin Planetarium Video - Exoplanet Atmospheres
High-energy radiation from the Sun creates space weather in our Solar System. Here on Earth, space weather affects the outer layers of our atmosphere, such as the exosphere and ionosphere, but is otherwise not a threat. For a planet orbiting another star, space weather may be so extreme that the planetʼs atmosphere doesnʼt survive. This video illustrates how a Jupiter-like planet orbiting around a red dwarf star might lose its atmosphere in an extreme “exoplanet space weather” event. Astronomers are studying how high levels of magnetic activity in red dwarfs lead to intense X-ray and ultraviolet radiation, and how that radiation affects the planets that orbit the stars. Specifically, this high-energy radiation can alter the chemical composition of an exoplanetʼs atmosphere, as well as blow some of the atmosphere off into space.
LSST will provide unprecedented statistics on the size and frequency of flares on red dwarf stars. These observations will allow astronomers to better estimate the ability of planets orbiting red dwarfs to maintain atmospheres, and ultimately, the suitability of these environments for the development of life.
After the discovery of over 3000 planets orbiting other stars, what we now call extrasolar planets, astronomers are interested in understanding their atmospheres. Red dwarfs are smaller and cooler than the Sun. To provide scale, the video starts with a side-by-side comparison of a red dwarf (right) and the Sun (left).
The video transitions to a Jupiter-like planet in orbit around a red dwarf. Magnetic activity in the atmosphere of the red dwarf leads to massive stellar flares that send high-energy charged particle storms into space. These particles are seen streaming from the star.
As these particles collide with the planet, they blow off part of its atmosphere. The atmosphere can be seen streaming into space.
We transition down to the surface of the Earth, near the LSST telescope. Red dwarfs are shown in the night sky, their brightness and variability greatly exaggerated.
Fiske Planetarium, University of Colorado Boulder
Dr. Kevin France (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Data Sources: Hubble Space Telescope MUSCLES E/PO Project
This work was supported by STScI grants HST-GO-12464.01 and HST-GO-13650.01 to the
University of Colorado at Boulder.
Data to Dome initiative