A volatile-poor formation of LHS 3844b based on its lack of significant atmosphere

Stephen R. Kane, Rachael M. Roettenbacher, Cayman T. Unterborn, Bradford J. Foley, Michelle L. Hill

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Abstract

Exoplanet discoveries have reached into the realm of terrestrial planets that are becoming the subject of atmospheric studies. One such discovery is LHS 3844b, a 1.3 Earth radius planet in a 0.46 day orbit around an M4.5-5 dwarf star. Follow-up observations indicate that the planet is largely devoid of substantial atmosphere. This lack of significant atmosphere places astrophysical and geophysical constraints on LHS 3844b, primarily the degree of volatile outgassing and the rate of atmosphere erosion. We estimate the age of the host star as 7.8 ± 1.6 Gyr and find evidence of an active past comparable to that of Proxima Centauri. We use geodynamical models of volcanic outgassing and atmospheric erosion to show that the apparent lack of atmosphere is consistent with a volatile-poor mantle for LHS 3844b. We show the core is unlikely to host enough C to produce a sufficiently volatile-poor mantle, unless the bulk planet is volatile-poor relative to Earth. While we cannot rule out a giant impact stripping LHS 3844b's atmosphere, we show that this mechanism would require significant mantle stripping, potentially leaving LHS 3844b as an Fe-rich "super-Mercury."Atmospheric erosion by smaller impacts is possible, but only if the planet has already begun degassing and is bombarded by 103 impactors of radius 500-1000 km traveling at escape velocity. We discuss formation and migration scenarios that could account for a volatile-poor origin, including the potential for an unobserved massive companion planet. A relatively volatilepoor composition of LHS 3844b suggests that the planet formed interior to the system snow line.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36
JournalPlanetary Science Journal
Volume1
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Geophysics

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