From the Exoplanetary Bestiary to the Exoplanetary Zoo
Abstract:While much attention has been focused on the exoplanetary “bestiary” of super-Earths, lava worlds, and diamond planets, habitable planets are more likely to be found in a more similar exoplanetary “zoo.” Many planet-hosting stars are similar in composition to the Sun, with moderate variations in metal abundances. Even for those stars with O and Fe abundances similar to the Sun, many have 100% variations in the refractory, rock-forming elements such as Si, Mg, Al and Ca. For an Earth sized planet, this variation creates planets with drastically different mantle mineral assemblages and variable melting, elastic, and viscous properties, leading to variable dynamical behavior. This dynamical behavior dictates the dominant mode of heat extraction, be it through a conducting rigid lid or via plate tectonics. Without tectonics, there is no mechanism known with which to create a deep water and carbon cycle, thus creating a long-lived habitable surface.
We present the results of integrated modeling in which we consider the effects of variations in bulk mantle composition on Earth-mass planets. To explore the variations expected in this planetary zoo, we present condensation sequence calculations for stars of varying refractory element abundances. These calculations constrain the potential refractory mineral reservoir from which Earth-mass terrestrial planets will form. As planets of this size inevitably will convect, the thermal structure of the mantle is controlled by surface melting temperature and the first crust can be estimated from decompression melting of a convecting mantle. The thermodynamic code HeFESTo determines the mineralogy and resulting thermoelastic properties of both the mantle and potential foundering of crustal material. Finally, with parameterized convection modeling and 2- and 3-D convection modeling, we determine terrestrial mantle’s convective regime as a function of bulk composition. We therefore consider a planet’s potential for Earth-like plate tectonics by applying compositional perturbations from the Earth. Aspects affecting this potential include the location of the basalt-eclogite transition in the upper mantle and the density contrast, and thus negative buoyancy, between the foundering crust and mantle. Portions of this work were initiated at the CIDER 2014 program.