Universiteit Leiden

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PhD defence

Super-Earth Atmospheres

  • M. Zilinskas
Wednesday 24 May 2023
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


  • Prof.dr. I.A.G. Snellen
  • dr. Y. Miguel


Over the last three decades, the discovery of exoplanets has revealed the boundless variety of worlds beyond our own Solar System.  Majority of planetary systems contain short=period planets that are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. For rocky planets,  the strong irradiation causes the surface to melt, forming dayside oceans of molten silicates. These are known as lava worlds.  From a theoretical standpoint, lava worlds are expected to outgas silicate-rich atmospheres, which can be characterised using spectroscopy techniques. Spectroscopy allows astronomers to single out a multitude of chemical species in exoplanets, and with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), it is now possible to characterise even rocky planets.

To reinforce our understanding of distant worlds it is critical that we can reproduce the observed results using computational models
. A variety approaches exist, however due to their flexibility and adaptability, using averaged 1-D models is prefered. The work in this thesis heavily focuses on using 1-D chemistry and radiative-transfer codes  to simulate atmospheres of super-Earths and sub-Neptunes, including volatile and silicate-rich compositions. The main goal is to guide observers to potentially detectable species that would help us gain insight into many of the drawn assumptions. The research done indicates a multitude of detectable species such as HCN, CN, CO, SiO, and SiO2. Models also show that silicate atmospheres are plagued with deep temperature inversions, strongly affecting observability.  Most of the presented results are especially applicable to low-resolution infrared spectroscopy for observations with JWST.

PhD dissertations

Approximately one week after the defence, PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

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