36th DPS Meeting, 8-12 November 2004
Session 40 Satellite Formation and Origins
Poster II, Thursday, November 11, 2004, 4:15-7:00pm, Exhibition Hall 1A

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[40.07] Hydrodynamic Escape from Hydrogen Rich Atmospheres

C. D. Parkinson, M. I. Richardson, D. J. Hill (California Institute of Technology)

Atmospheric loss processes have played a major role in the evolution and habitability of the terrestrial planet atmospheres in our solar system. The hydrogen escape rate to space is the key parameter that controls the composition of the primitive terrestrial atmosphere, including its possible methane concentration. Most models of the early atmosphere assume that hydrogen escapes at the diffusion-limited rate (Walker, 1977), but this need not necessarily have been true. A CO2- or CH4-rich primitive atmosphere may have been relatively cool in its upper regions, and the escape may therefore have been limited by energy considerations rather than by diffusion. Resolving questions of hydrogen escape for these cases requires solving a set of hydrodynamic equations for conservation of mass, momentum, and energy. Hydrodynamic escape may also be important for Close-in Extrasolar Gas Giants (CEGPs) such as HD209458b, which has recently been observed to be losing hydrogen by the Hubble Space Telescope (Vidal-Madjar et al., 2003; 2004). Although planetary hydrodynamic escape models have been created in the past (Watson et al., 1981; Kasting and Pollack, 1983; Chassefiere, 1996), the problems were solved by integrating the coupled, time independent mass, momentum, and energy equations for the escaping gas from the homopause out to infinity. Solving the one-dimensional, steady state approximation becomes problematic at the distance where the outflow becomes supersonic. A new technique has been developed for the treatment of hydrodynamic loss processes from planetary atmospheres that overcomes the instabilities inherent in modelling transonic conditions by solving the coupled, time dependent mass, momentum, and energy equations, instead of integrating time independent equations.

We validate a preliminary model of hydrodynamic escape against simple, idealized cases (viz., steady state and isothermal conditions) showing that a robust solution obtains and then compare to existing cases in the literature as cited above. The general tools developed here are applied to the problems of hydrodynamic escape on the early Earth and close-in extrasolar gas giant planets and results from these analyses are shown.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 #4
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.