Ionization in atmospheres of brown dwarfs and extrasolar planets VI: properties of large-scale discharge events

R. L. Bailey, Ch. Helling, G. Hodosán, C. Bilger, Craig R. Stark

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Abstract

Mineral clouds in substellar atmospheres play a special role as a catalyst for a variety of charge processes. If clouds are charged, the surrounding environment becomes electrically activated, and ensembles of charged grains are electrically discharging (e.g., by lightning), which significantly influences the local chemistry creating conditions similar to those thought responsible for life in early planetary atmospheres. We note that such lightning discharges contribute also to the ionization state of the atmosphere. We apply scaling laws for electrical discharge processes from laboratory measurements and numerical experiments to DRIFT-PHOENIX model atmosphere results to model the discharge's propagation downward (as lightning) and upward (as sprites) through the atmospheric clouds. We evaluate the spatial extent and energetics of lightning discharges. The atmospheric volume affected (e.g., by increase of temperature or electron number) is larger in a brown dwarf atmosphere (108-1010 m3) than in a giant gas planet (104-106 m3). Our results suggest that the total dissipated energy in one event is <1012 J for all models of initial solar metallicity. First attempts to show the influence of lightning on the local gas phase indicate an increase of small carbohydrate molecules like CH and CH2 at the expense of CO and CH4. Dust-forming molecules are destroyed and the cloud particle properties are frozen in unless enough time is available for complete evaporation. We summarize instruments potentially suitable to observe lightning on extrasolar objects.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume784
Issue number43
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2014

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dwarf planets
lightning
extrasolar planets
ionization
planet
atmospheres
atmosphere
gas giant planets
sprite
planetary atmosphere
planetary atmospheres
carbohydrates
gas
scaling laws
metallicity
molecules
carbohydrate
energetics
evaporation
dust

Cite this

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title = "Ionization in atmospheres of brown dwarfs and extrasolar planets VI: properties of large-scale discharge events",
abstract = "Mineral clouds in substellar atmospheres play a special role as a catalyst for a variety of charge processes. If clouds are charged, the surrounding environment becomes electrically activated, and ensembles of charged grains are electrically discharging (e.g., by lightning), which significantly influences the local chemistry creating conditions similar to those thought responsible for life in early planetary atmospheres. We note that such lightning discharges contribute also to the ionization state of the atmosphere. We apply scaling laws for electrical discharge processes from laboratory measurements and numerical experiments to DRIFT-PHOENIX model atmosphere results to model the discharge's propagation downward (as lightning) and upward (as sprites) through the atmospheric clouds. We evaluate the spatial extent and energetics of lightning discharges. The atmospheric volume affected (e.g., by increase of temperature or electron number) is larger in a brown dwarf atmosphere (108-1010 m3) than in a giant gas planet (104-106 m3). Our results suggest that the total dissipated energy in one event is <1012 J for all models of initial solar metallicity. First attempts to show the influence of lightning on the local gas phase indicate an increase of small carbohydrate molecules like CH and CH2 at the expense of CO and CH4. Dust-forming molecules are destroyed and the cloud particle properties are frozen in unless enough time is available for complete evaporation. We summarize instruments potentially suitable to observe lightning on extrasolar objects.",
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Ionization in atmospheres of brown dwarfs and extrasolar planets VI : properties of large-scale discharge events. / Bailey, R. L.; Helling, Ch.; Hodosán, G.; Bilger, C.; Stark, Craig R.

In: Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 784, No. 43, 04.03.2014.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Ionization in atmospheres of brown dwarfs and extrasolar planets VI

T2 - properties of large-scale discharge events

AU - Bailey, R. L.

AU - Helling, Ch.

AU - Hodosán, G.

AU - Bilger, C.

AU - Stark, Craig R.

PY - 2014/3/4

Y1 - 2014/3/4

N2 - Mineral clouds in substellar atmospheres play a special role as a catalyst for a variety of charge processes. If clouds are charged, the surrounding environment becomes electrically activated, and ensembles of charged grains are electrically discharging (e.g., by lightning), which significantly influences the local chemistry creating conditions similar to those thought responsible for life in early planetary atmospheres. We note that such lightning discharges contribute also to the ionization state of the atmosphere. We apply scaling laws for electrical discharge processes from laboratory measurements and numerical experiments to DRIFT-PHOENIX model atmosphere results to model the discharge's propagation downward (as lightning) and upward (as sprites) through the atmospheric clouds. We evaluate the spatial extent and energetics of lightning discharges. The atmospheric volume affected (e.g., by increase of temperature or electron number) is larger in a brown dwarf atmosphere (108-1010 m3) than in a giant gas planet (104-106 m3). Our results suggest that the total dissipated energy in one event is <1012 J for all models of initial solar metallicity. First attempts to show the influence of lightning on the local gas phase indicate an increase of small carbohydrate molecules like CH and CH2 at the expense of CO and CH4. Dust-forming molecules are destroyed and the cloud particle properties are frozen in unless enough time is available for complete evaporation. We summarize instruments potentially suitable to observe lightning on extrasolar objects.

AB - Mineral clouds in substellar atmospheres play a special role as a catalyst for a variety of charge processes. If clouds are charged, the surrounding environment becomes electrically activated, and ensembles of charged grains are electrically discharging (e.g., by lightning), which significantly influences the local chemistry creating conditions similar to those thought responsible for life in early planetary atmospheres. We note that such lightning discharges contribute also to the ionization state of the atmosphere. We apply scaling laws for electrical discharge processes from laboratory measurements and numerical experiments to DRIFT-PHOENIX model atmosphere results to model the discharge's propagation downward (as lightning) and upward (as sprites) through the atmospheric clouds. We evaluate the spatial extent and energetics of lightning discharges. The atmospheric volume affected (e.g., by increase of temperature or electron number) is larger in a brown dwarf atmosphere (108-1010 m3) than in a giant gas planet (104-106 m3). Our results suggest that the total dissipated energy in one event is <1012 J for all models of initial solar metallicity. First attempts to show the influence of lightning on the local gas phase indicate an increase of small carbohydrate molecules like CH and CH2 at the expense of CO and CH4. Dust-forming molecules are destroyed and the cloud particle properties are frozen in unless enough time is available for complete evaporation. We summarize instruments potentially suitable to observe lightning on extrasolar objects.

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