Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc., 484, L49-L53 (2019/March-3)
The XUV irradiation and likely atmospheric escape of the super-Earth π Men c.
KING G.W., WHEATLEY P.J., BOURRIER V. and EHRENREICH D.
Abstract (from CDS):
π Men c was recently announced as the first confirmed exoplanet from the TESS mission. The planet has a radius of just 2 R⊕ and it transits a nearby Sun-like star of naked-eye brightness, making it the ideal target for atmospheric characterization of a super-Earth. Here we analyse archival ROSAT and Swift observations of π Men in order to determine the X-ray and extreme-ultraviolet irradiation of the planetary atmosphere and assess whether atmospheric escape is likely to be on-going. We find that π Men has a similar level of X-ray emission to the Sun, with L_ X/L bol_ = (4.84+0.92–0.84)×10–7. However, due to its small orbital separation, the high-energy irradiation of the super-Earth is around 2000 times stronger than suffered by the Earth. We show that this is sufficient to drive atmospheric escape at a rate greater than that readily detected from the warm Neptune GJ 436b. Furthermore, we estimate π Men to be four times brighter at Ly α than GJ 436. Given the small atmospheric scale heights of super-Earths, together with their potentially cloudy atmospheres, and the consequent difficulty in measuring transmission spectra, we conclude that ultraviolet absorption by material escaping π Men c presents the best opportunity currently to determine the atmospheric composition of a super-Earth.