Haze production rates in super-Earth and mini-Neptune atmosphere experiments

Sarah M. Hörst, Chao He, Nikole K. Lewis, Eliza M.R. Kempton, Mark S. Marley, Caroline V. Morley, Julianne I. Moses, Jeff A. Valenti, Véronique Vuitton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Numerous Solar System atmospheres possess photochemically generated hazes, including the characteristic organic hazes of Titan and Pluto. Haze particles substantially impact atmospheric temperature structures and may provide organic material to the surface of a world, potentially affecting its habitability. Observations of exoplanet atmospheres suggest the presence of aerosols, especially in cooler (<800 K), smaller (<0.3× Jupiter's mass) exoplanets. It remains unclear whether the aerosols muting the spectroscopic features of exoplanet atmospheres are condensate clouds or photochemical hazes 1-3, which is difficult to predict from theory alone 4 . Here, we present laboratory haze simulation experiments that probe a broad range of atmospheric parameters relevant to super-Earth- and mini-Neptune-type planets 5, the most frequently occurring type of planet in our galaxy 6 . It is expected that photochemical haze will play a much greater role in the atmospheres of planets with average temperatures below 1,000 K (ref. 7 ), especially those planets that may have enhanced atmospheric metallicity and/or enhanced C/O ratios, such as super-Earths and Neptune-mass planets 8-12 . We explored temperatures from 300 to 600 K and a range of atmospheric metallicities (100×, 1,000× and 10,000× solar). All simulated atmospheres produced particles, and the cooler (300 and 400 K) 1,000× solar metallicity ('H2O-dominated' and CH4-rich) experiments exhibited haze production rates higher than our standard Titan simulation (~10 mg h-1 versus 7.4 mg h-1 for Titan 13 ). However, the particle production rates varied greatly, with measured rates as low as 0.04 mg h-1 (for the case with 100× solar metallicity at 600 K). Here, we show that we should expect great diversity in haze production rates, as some - but not all - super-Earth and mini-Neptune atmospheres will possess photochemically generated haze.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-306
Number of pages4
JournalNature Astronomy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


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