Hazy or Cloudy Skies for the TRAPPIST-1 Planets? Not with hydrogen.
I took laboratory results on exoplanet haze particles and input the physical parameters into a 1-D atmospheric model. I then compared the modeled results to Hubble observations of the Habitable Zone TRAPPIST-1 planets. I showed that hazy or cloudy hydrogen-rich atmospheres on these worlds aren't physically realistic based on lab constraints. This means these planets likely have heavier, secondary atmospheres (or no atmospheres at all!).
Read my paper here: iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-3881/aae83a
Or the preprint: https://arxiv.org/abs/1810.05210
I also helped run atmospheric models for follow-up observations of TRAPPIST-1 g, getting similar results: iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-3881/aaf04d.
Finally, I ran the atmospheric models for the analysis that looked at the coldest, farthest out planet TRAPPIST-1h, and found again that its atmosphere isn't hydrogen-dominated or clear: https://arxiv.org/abs/2203.13698.
Exoplanet lab hazes are oxygen-rich, maybe good for clouds, and potentially full of life's building blocks.
I used mass spectrometry to understand the chemistry of exoplanet hazes made in the lab. I found that these hazes contain tons of oxygen, making them very different from "typical" Solar System hazes found in Titan's atmosphere. The hazes dissolved in polar solvents, which might make them good cloud condensation nuclei. I also identified chemical formulas consistent with amino acids, nucleobases, and sugars -- the building blocks of life. This means some exoplanet atmospheres alone can generate rich prebiotic inventories.
Preprint here: arxiv.org/abs/2004.13794
Published version here: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/PSJ/ab8eae
We later did a follow-up experiment using a carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere with trace hydrogen sulfide gas -- we make organosulfur hazes! Read the paper here: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/PSJ/abc558
The hazes of Neptune's moon Triton are more oxygenated than Titan's and reveal the role of carbon monoxide in forming haze
I investigated the haze properties -- chemical, optical, and physical -- of a Triton-like haze made in the lab. I compared the Triton haze properties to those of other methane and carbon monoxide-rich nitrogen atmospheres, like those of Titan and Pluto. Carbon monoxide turns out to be very important! It affects the production rate (more haze!?), the composition (more oxygen! maybe makes glyceraldehyde, the simplest sugar? ), and the spectra (deeper spectral features from O-H bonds?). Future Neptune system missions should account for this complex chemistry in their instrument suites.
Read the preprint here: https://arxiv.org/abs/2112.11627
Published version here:
Optical properties of exoplanet hazes and how they'll affect telescope observations
My final PhD An ongoing project focuses on the optical properties of mini-Neptune, super-Earth, and terrestrial exoplanet hazes. The scattering and absorption by hazes will greatly impact the atmospheric spectra observed with current and future telescopes, like Hubble and JWST. More to come soon...