Chemical consequences of the C/O ratio on hot Jupiters: Examples from WASP-12b,CoRoT-2b, XO-1b, and HD 189733b
Motivated by recent spectroscopic evidence for carbon-rich atmospheres on some transiting exoplanets, we investigate the influence of the C/O ratio on the chemistry, composition, and spectra of extrasolar giant planets both from a thermochemical-equilibrium perspective and from consideration of disequilibrium processes like photochemistry and transport-induced quenching. We find that although CO is predicted to be a major atmospheric constituent on hot Jupiters for all C/O ratios, other oxygen-bearing molecules like H2O and CO2 are much more abundant when C/O < 1, whereas CH4, HCN, and C2H2 gain significantly in abundance when C/O > 1. Disequilibrium processes tend to enhance the abundance of CH4, NH3, HCN, and C2H2 over a wide range of C/O ratios. We compare the results of our models with secondary-eclipse photometric data from the Spitzer Space Telescope and conclude that (1) disequilibrium models with C/O ~ 1 are consistent with spectra of WASP-12b, XO-1b, and CoRoT-2b, confirming the possible carbon-rich nature of these planets, (2) spectra from HD 189733b are consistent with C/O ~< 1, but as the assumed metallicity is increased above solar, the required C/O ratio must increase toward 1 to prevent too much H2O absorption, (3) species like HCN can have a significant influence on spectral behavior in the 3.6 and 8.0 um Spitzer channels, potentially providing even more opacity than CH4 when C/O > 1, and (4) the very high CO2 abundance inferred for HD 189733b from near-infrared observations cannot be explained through equilibrium or disequilibrium chemistry in a H2-dominated atmosphere. We discuss possible formation mechanisms for carbon-rich hot Jupiters. The C/O ratio and bulk atmospheric metallicity provide important clues regarding the formation and evolution of the giant planets.
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