Photoevaporation

Photoevaporation denotes the process where energetic radiation ionises gas and causes it to disperse away from the ionising source. This typically refers to an astrophysical context where ultravioletradiation from hot stars acts on clouds of material such as molecular clouds, protoplanetary disks, or planetary atmospheres.[1][2][3]

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Eagle nebula pillars being photoevaporated

One of the most obvious manifestations of astrophysical photoevaporation is seen in the eroding structures of molecular clouds as luminous stars are born within.[4]

Evaporating Gaseous Globules or EGGs were first discovered in the Eagle Nebula. These small cometary globules are being photoevaporated by the stars in the nearby cluster. EGGs are places of ongoing star-formation.[5]

A planet can be stripped of its atmosphere (or parts of the atmosphere) due to high energy photons and other electromagnetic radiation. If a photon interacts with an atmospheric molecule, the molecule is accelerated and its temperature increased. If sufficient energy is provided, the molecule or atom may reach the escape velocity of the planet and “evaporate” into space. The lower the mass number of the gas, the higher the velocity obtained by interaction with a photon. Thus hydrogen is the gas which is most prone to photoevaporation.

Photoevaporation is the likely cause of the small planet radius gap.[6]

Examples of exoplanets with an evaporating atmosphere are HD 209458 b, HD 189733 b and Gliese 3470 b. Material from a possible evaporating planet around WD J0914+1914 might be responsible for the gaseous disk around this white dwarf.

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