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Dications and thermal ions in planetary atmospheric escape

Abstract : In the recent years, the presence of dications in the atmospheres of Mars, Venus, Earth and Titan has been modeled and assessed. These studies also suggested that these ions could participate to the escape of the planetary atmospheres because a large fraction of them is unstable and highly energetic. When they dissociate, their internal energy is transformed into kinetic energy which may be larger than the escape energy. The goal of this study is to assess the impact of the doubly-charged ions in the escape of CO2-dominated planetary atmospheres and to compare it to the escape of thermal photo-ions. We solve a Boltzmann transport equation at daytime taking into account the dissociative states of CO2++ for a simplified single constituent atmosphere of a case-study planet. We compute the escape of fast ions using a Beer-Lambert approach. We study three test-cases. On a Mars-analog planet in today's conditions, we retrieve the measured electron escape flux. When comparing the two mechanisms (i.e. excluding solar wind effects, sputtering, etc.), the escape due to the fast ions issuing from the dissociation of dications may account for up to 6% of the total and the escape of thermal ions for the remaining. We show that these two mechanisms cannot explain the escape of the atmosphere since the magnetic field vanished and even contribute only marginally to this loss. We show that with these two mechanisms, the atmosphere of a Mars analog planet would empty in another giga years and a half. At Venus orbit, the contribution of the dications in the escape rate is negligible. When simulating the hot Jupiter HD 209458 b, the two processes cannot explain the measured escape flux of C+. This study shows that the dications may constitute a source of the escape of planetary atmospheres which had not been taken into account until now. This source, although marginal, is not negligible. The influence of the photoionization is of course large, but cannot explain alone the loss of Mars' atmosphere nor the atmospheric escape of HD 209458 b.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, March 23, 2022 - 3:11:00 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, March 24, 2022 - 3:45:01 AM

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J. Lilensten, C. Simon Wedlund, M. Barthélémy, R. Thissen, D. Ehrenreich, et al.. Dications and thermal ions in planetary atmospheric escape. Icarus, 2013, 222, pp.169-187. ⟨10.1016/j.icarus.2012.09.034⟩. ⟨insu-03617527⟩

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