Small hydrocarbon molecules in cloud-forming brown dwarf and giant gas planet atmospheres

C. Bilger, P. Rimmer, Ch. Helling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


We study the abundances of complex carbon-bearing molecules in the oxygen-rich dust-forming atmospheres of brown dwarfs and giant gas planets. The inner atmospheric regions that form the inner boundary for thermochemical gas-phase models are investigated. Results from drift-phoenix atmosphere simulations, which include the feedback of phase-non-equilibrium dust cloud formation on the atmospheric structure and the gas-phase abundances, are utilized. The resulting element depletion leads to a shift in the carbon-to-oxygen ratio such that several hydrocarbon molecules and cyanopolyyne molecules can be present. An increase in surface gravity and/or a decrease in metallicity support the increase in the partial pressures of these species. CO, CO2, CH4 and HCN contain the largest fraction of carbon. In the upper atmosphere of low-metallicity objects, more carbon is contained in C4H than in CO, and also CH3 and C2H2 play an increasingly important role as carbon sink. We determine chemical relaxation time-scales to evaluate if hydrocarbon molecules can be affected by transport-induced quenching. Our results suggest that a considerable amount of C2H6 and C2H2 could be expected in the upper atmospheres not only of giant gas planets, but also of brown dwarfs. However, the exact quenching height strongly depends on the data source used. These results will have an impact on future thermokinetic studies, as they change the inner boundary condition for those simulations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1888-1903
Number of pages16
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013


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