Morphology of Hydrodynamic Winds: A Study of Planetary Winds in Stellar Environments

John McCann, Ruth A. Murray-Clay, Kaitlin Kratter, Mark R. Krumholz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Bathed in intense ionizing radiation, close-in gaseous planets undergo hydrodynamic atmospheric escape, which ejects the upper extent of their atmospheres into the interplanetary medium. Ultraviolet detections of escaping gas around transiting planets corroborate such a framework. Exposed to the stellar environment, the outflow is shaped by its interaction with the stellar wind and by the planet's orbit. We model these effects using Athena to perform 3D radiative-hydrodynamic simulations of tidally locked hydrogen atmospheres receiving large amounts of ionizing extreme-ultraviolet flux in various stellar environments for the low-magnetic-field case. Through a step-by-step exploration of orbital and stellar wind effects on the planetary outflow, we find three structurally distinct stellar wind regimes: weak, intermediate, and strong. We perform synthetic Lyα observations and find unique observational signatures for each regime. A weak stellar wind - which cannot confine the planetary outflow, leading to a torus of material around the star - has a pretransit, redshifted dayside arm and a slightly redward-skewed spectrum during transit. The intermediate regime truncates the dayside outflow at large distances from the planet and causes periodic disruptions of the outflow, producing observational signatures that mimic a double transit. The first of these dips is blueshifted and precedes the optical transit. Finally, strong stellar winds completely confine the outflow into a cometary tail and accelerate the outflow outward, producing large blueshifted signals posttransit. Across all three regimes, large signals occur far outside of transit, offering motivation to continue ultraviolet observations outside of direct transit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number89
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • hydrodynamics
  • methods: numerical
  • planets and satellites: atmospheres
  • planets and satellites: gaseous planets
  • planetstar interactions
  • radiative transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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