Comet-like tail-formation of exospheres of hot rocky exoplanets: Possible implications for CoRoT-7b

Mura, A.; Wurz, P.; Schneider, J.; Lammer, H.; Grießmeier, J.-M.; Khodachenko, M. L.; Weingrill, J.; Guenther, E.; Cabrera, J.; Erikson, A.; Fridlund, M.; Milillo, A.; Rauer, H.; von Paris, Ph.
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Icarus, Volume 211, Issue 1, p. 1-9.

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In this study, the interaction of stellar wind plasma with the exosphere and possibly with the planetary magnetospheric environment of close-in rocky exoplanets is investigated. In particular, we focus on the “super-Earth” CoRoT-7b, which has been recently discovered by the CoRoT space observatory. The physical properties of such a planet, with an orbital distance of about 0.017 AU from its host star, may most likely resemble a big and more massive Mercury-type planet in the sense that it most likely releases its surface elements into space. Based on the present knowledge of CoRoT-7b and drawing on the analogy to Solar System planets, we use numerical models to simulate exospheric and magnetospheric distributions of different particle populations, among which are neutral sodium and ionised calcium and magnesium. We find that, for most species, the atmospheric loss rate in such an extreme environment can be very high, so that a neutral and an ionised tail of escaping particles will form. Depending on the planetary composition we postulate the presence of a sodium tail, similar to that of Mercury but shorter due to the shorter Na lifetime, and of an extended magnetospheric distribution of ionised calcium or magnesium. The feasibility of observation of such populations is also discussed.