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Planets Stripped of Their Atmospheres by Their Host Stars

Astrophysicists, using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope have discovered super-Earths, exoplanets 2-10 times larger than Earth, whose atmospheres have been obliterated by radiation from their host stars.

NASA's Kepler Space Telescope

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope

It has been known that planets with atmospheres that orbit close to their host stars are bombarded with high-intensity radiation but this study confirms the gaseous layers being stripped away through photoevaporation.

Dr. Guy Davies, from the University of Birmingham and part of the research team says,

There has been much theoretical speculation that such planets might be stripped of their atmospheres. We now have the observational evidence to confirm this, which removes any lingering doubts over the theory.

The international team of scientists recently released their study in the journal, Nature Communications. Astronomers used astroseismology, a technique that probes the internal structure of stars.

The study states,

Here, we demonstrate through astroseismology on a sample of exoplanets and exoplanet candidates observed during the Keplar mission that, while there is an abundance of super-Earth sized exoplanets with low incident fluxes, none are found with high incident fluxes … This gap in the population of exoplanets is explained by evaporation of volatile elements and thus supports predictions.

A Super-Earth Exoplanet Being Bombarded by Radiation

A Super-Earth Exoplanet Being Bombarded by Radiation

This study hopes to help with understanding how our Solar System and their planets evolved over time and the role played by the host star.

Davies sums up,

Our results show that planets of a certain size that lie close to their stars are likely to have been much larger at the beginning of their lives. Those planets will have looked very different.