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Metallicity and Spectral Evolution of WASP-39 b: The Limited Role of Hydrodynamic Escape

Amy J. LoucaYamila MiguelDaria Kubyshkina
Sep 2023
The recent observations on WASP-39 b by JWST have revealed hints of high metallicity within the atmosphere compared to its host star (Feinstein et al. 2022; Ahrer et al. 2023; Alderson et al. 2023; Rustamkulov et al. 2023; Tsai et al. 2023). There are various theories on how these high metallic atmospheres emerge. In this study, we closely investigate the impact of extreme escape in the form of hydrodynamic escape to see its impact on atmospheric metallicity and spectral features such as CH$_4$, CO$_2$, and SO$_2$. We perform a grid simulation, with an adapted version of MESA that includes hydrodynamic escape (Kubyshkina et al. 2018; 2020), to fully evolve planets with similar masses and radii to the currently observed WASP-39 b estimates. By making use of (photo-)chemical kinetics and radiative transfer codes, we evaluate the transmission spectra at various time intervals throughout the simulation. Our results indicate that the massive size of WASP-39 b limits the metal enhancement to a maximum of ~1.23 the initial metallicity. When incorporating metal drag, this enhancement factor is repressed to an even greater degree, resulting in an enrichment of at most ~0.4%. As a consequence, when assuming an initial solar metallicity, metal-enriched spectral features like SO$_2$ are still missing after ~9 Gyr into the simulation. This paper, thus, demonstrates that hydrodynamic escape cannot be the primary process behind the high metallicity observed in the atmosphere of WASP-39 b, suggesting instead that a metal-enhanced atmosphere was established during its formation.
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