Evolution of the solar activity over time and effects on planetary atmospheres. II. κ1 Ceti, an analog of the sun when life arose on earth

I. Ribas, G.F. Porto de Mello, L.D. Ferreira, E. Hebrard, F. Selsis, S. Catalan, A. Garces, J.D. do Nascimento, J.R. de Medeiros

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    61 Citations (Scopus)


    The early evolution of Earth's atmosphere and the origin of life took place at a time when physical conditions at the Earth were radically different from its present state. The radiative input from the Sun was much enhanced in the high-energy spectral domain, and in order to model early planetary atmospheres in detail, a knowledge of the solar radiative input is needed. We present an investigation of the atmospheric parameters, state of evolution, and high-energy fluxes of the nearby star κ1 Cet, previously thought to have properties resembling those of the early Sun. Atmospheric parameters were derived from the excitation/ionization equilibrium of Fe I and Fe II, profile fitting of Hα, and the spectral energy distribution. The UV irradiance was derived from Far-Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer and Hubble Space Telescope data, and the absolute chromospheric flux from the Hα line core. From careful spectral analysis and the comparison of different methods, we propose for κ1 Cet the following atmospheric parameters: T eff = 5665 ± 30 K (Hα profile and energy distribution), log g = 4.49 ± 0.05 dex (evolutionary and spectroscopic), and [Fe/H] = +0.10 ± 0.05 (Fe II lines). The UV radiative properties of κ1 Cet indicate that its flux is some 35% lower than the current Sun's between 210 and 300 nm, it matches the Sun's at 170 nm, and increases to at least 2-7 times higher than the Sun's between 110 and 140 nm. The use of several indicators ascribes an age to κ1 Cet in the interval ~0.4-0.8 Gyr and the analysis of the theoretical Hertzsprung-Russell diagram (H-R) suggests a mass ~1.04 M . This star is thus a very close analog of the Sun when life arose on Earth and Mars is thought to have lost its surface bodies of liquid water. Photochemical models indicate that the enhanced UV emission leads to a significant increase in photodissociation rates compared with those commonly assumed of the early Earth. Our results show that reliable calculations of the chemical composition of early planetary atmospheres need to account for the stronger solar photodissociating UV irradiation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)384-395
    JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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