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Effect of UV radiation on the spectral fingerprints of Earth-like planets orbiting M stars

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Author(s)

S. Rugheimer, L. Kaltenegger, A. Segura, J. Linsky, S. Mohanty

Abstract

We model the atmospheres and spectra of Earth-like planets orbiting the entire grid of M dwarfs for active and inactive stellar models with Teff = 2300 K to Teff = 3800 K and for six observed MUSCLES M dwarfs with UV radiation data. We set the Earth-like planets at the 1 AU equivalent distance and show spectra from the visible to IR (0.4-20 μm) to compare detectability of features in different wavelength ranges with the James Webb Space Telescope and other future ground- and spaced-based missions to characterize exo-Earths. We focus on the effect of UV activity levels on detectable atmospheric features that indicate habitability on Earth, namely, H2O, O3, CH4, N2O, and CH3Cl. To observe signatures of life - O2/O3 in combination with reducing species like CH4 - we find that early and active M dwarfs are the best targets of the M star grid for future telescopes. The O2 spectral feature at 0.76 μm is increasingly difficult to detect in reflected light of later M dwarfs owing to low stellar flux in that wavelength region. N2O, another biosignature detectable in the IR, builds up to observable concentrations in our planetary models around M dwarfs with low UV flux. CH3Cl could become detectable, depending on the depth of the overlapping N2O feature. We present a spectral database of Earth-like planets around cool stars for directly imaged planets as a framework for interpreting future light curves, direct imaging, and secondary eclipse measurements of the atmospheres of terrestrial planets in the habitable zone to design and assess future telescope capabilities.

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Details

Original languageEnglish
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume809
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2015

    Research areas

  • Astrobiology, Planets and satellites: atmospheres, Planets and satellites: terrestrial planets, Stars: low-mass

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