Journal Article Microphysical Modeling of Mineral Clouds in GJ1214 b and GJ436 b: Predicting Upper Limits on the Cloud-top Height

大野, 和正  ,  Ohno, Kazumasa  ,  奥住, 聡  ,  Okuzumi, Satoshi

The ubiquity of clouds in the atmospheres of exoplanets, especially of super-Earths, is one of the outstanding issues for the transmission spectra survey. Understanding the formation process of clouds in super-Earths is necessary to interpret the observed spectra correctly. In this study, we investigate the vertical distributions of particle size and mass density of mineral clouds in super-Earths using a microphysical model that takes into account the vertical transport and growth of cloud particles in a self-consistent manner. We demonstrate that the vertical profiles of mineral clouds significantly vary with the concentration of cloud condensation nuclei and atmospheric metallicity. We find that the height of the cloud top increases with increasing metallicity as long as the metallicity is lower than the threshold. If the metallicity is larger than the threshold, the cloud-top height no longer increases appreciably with metallicity because coalescence yields larger particles of higher settling velocities. We apply our cloud model to GJ1214 b and GJ436 b, for which recent transmission observations suggest the presence of high-altitude opaque clouds. For GJ436 b, we show that KCl particles can ascend high enough to explain the observation. For GJ1214 b, by contrast, the height of KCl clouds predicted from our model is too low to explain its flat transmission spectrum. Clouds made of highly porous KCl particles could explain the observations if the atmosphere is highly metal-rich, and hence the particle microstructure might be a key to interpret the flat spectrum of GJ1214 b.

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