We investigate the stability of super-Earth atmospheres around M stars using a seven-parameter, analytical framework. We construct stability diagrams in the parameter space of exoplanetary radius versus semimajor axis and elucidate the regions in which the atmospheres are stable against the condensation of their major constituents, out of the gas phase, on their permanent nightside hemispheres. We find that super-Earth atmospheres that are nitrogen-dominated (Earth-like) occupy a smaller region of allowed parameter space, compared to hydrogen-dominated atmospheres, because of the dual effects of diminished advection and enhanced radiative cooling. Furthermore, some super-Earths which reside within the habitable zones of M stars may not possess stable atmospheres, depending on the mean molecular weight and infrared photospheric pressure of their atmospheres. We apply our stability diagrams to GJ 436b and GJ 1214b, and demonstrate that atmospheric compositions with high mean molecular weights are disfavored if these exoplanets possess solid surfaces and shallow atmospheres. Finally, we construct stability diagrams tailored to the Kepler data set, for G and K stars, and predict that about half of the exoplanet candidates are expected to harbor stable atmospheres if Earth-like conditions are assumed. We include 55 Cancri e and CoRoT-7b in our stability diagram for G stars.
planets and satellites: atmospheres