Photochemical Haze Formation in the Atmospheres of Super-Earths and Mini-Neptunes

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


UV radiation can induce photochemical processes in exoplanet atmospheres and produce haze particles. Recent observations suggest that haze and/or cloud layers could be present in the upper atmospheres of exoplanets. Haze particles play an important role in planetary atmospheres and may provide a source of organic material to the surface that may impact the origin or evolution of life. However, very little information is known about photochemical processes in cool, high-metallicity exoplanetary atmospheres. Previously, we investigated haze formation and particle size distribution in laboratory atmosphere simulation experiments using AC plasma as the energy source. Here, we use UV photons to initiate the chemistry rather than the AC plasma, as photochemistry driven by UV radiation is important for understanding exoplanet atmospheres. We present photochemical haze formation in current UV experiments; we investigated a range of atmospheric metallicities (100×, 1000×, and 10000×solar metallicity) at three temperatures (300, 400, and 600 K). We find that photochemical hazes are generated in all simulated atmospheres with temperature-dependent production rates: the particles produced in each metallicity group decrease as the temperature increases. The images taken with atomic force microscopy show the particle size (15-190 nm) varies with temperature and metallicity. Our laboratory experimental results provide new insight into the formation and properties of photochemical haze, which could guide exoplanet atmosphere modeling and help to analyze and interpret current and future observations of exoplanets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number38
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • planets and satellites: atmospheres

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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