Very high-density planets: a possible remnant of gas giants

A. Mocquet, O. Grasset, C. Sotin

Abstract

Data extracted from the Extrasolar Planets Encyclo- paedia (see http://exoplanet.eu) show the existence of planets that are more massive than iron cores that would have the same size. After meticulous verification of the data, we conclude that the mass of the smallest of these planets is actually not known. However, the three largest planets, Kepler-52b, Kepler-52c and Kepler-57b, which are between 30 and 100 times the mass of the Earth, have indeed density larger than an iron planet of the same size. This observation triggers this study that investigates under which conditions these planets could represent the naked cores of gas giants that would have lost their atmospheres during their migration towards the star. This study shows that for moderate viscosity values (1025 Pa s or lower), large values of escape rate and associated unloading stress rate during the atmospheric loss process lead to the explosion of extremely massive planets. However, for moderate escape rate, the bulk viscosity and finite-strain incompressibility of the cores of giant planets can be large enough to retain a very high density during geological time scales. This would make those a new kind of planet, which would help in understanding the interior structure of the gas giants. However, this new family of exoplanets adds some degeneracy for characterizing terrestrial exoplanets.

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