Grain Growth in Escaping Atmospheres: Implications for the Radius Inflation of Super-Puffs

Kazumasa Ohno, Yuki A. Tanaka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Super-puffs - low-mass exoplanets with extremely low bulk density - are attractive targets for exploring their atmospheres and formation processes. Recent studies suggested that the large radii of super-puffs may be caused by atmospheric dust entrained in the escaping atmospheres. In this study, we investigate how the dust grows in escaping atmospheres and influences the transit radii using a microphysical model of grain growth. Collision growth is efficient in many cases, hindering the upward transport of dust via enhanced gravitational settling. We find that the dust abundance in the outflow hardly exceeds the Mach number at the dust production region. Thus, dust formed in the upper atmospheres, say at P ≲ 10-5 bar, is needed to launch a dusty outflow with a high dust abundance. With sufficiently high dust production altitudes and rates, the dusty outflow can enhance the observable radius by a factor of ∼2 or even more. We suggest that photochemical haze is a promising candidate of high-altitude dust that can be entrained in the outflow. We also compute the synthetic transmission spectra of super-puff atmospheres and demonstrate that the dusty outflow produces a broad spectral slope and obscures molecular features, in agreement with featureless spectra recently reported for several super-puffs. Lastly, using an interior structure model, we suggest that the atmospheric dust could drastically enhance the observable radius only for planets in a narrow mass range of ∼2-5 M ⊕, in which the boil-off tends to cause total atmospheric loss. This may explain why super-puffs are uncommon despite the suggested universality of photochemical hazes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Oct 20

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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