High Stellar FUV/NUV Ratio and Oxygen Contents in the Atmospheres of Potentially Habitable Planets

Recent observations of several planet-hosting M dwarfs show that most have FUV/NUV flux ratios 1000 times greater than that of the Sun. Here we show that the atmospheric oxygen contents (O2 and O3) of potentially habitable planets in this type of UV environment could be 2~3 orders of magnitude greater than those of their counterparts around Sun-like stars as a result of decreased photolysis of O3, H2O2, and HO2. Thus detectable levels of atmospheric oxygen, in combination with the existence of H2O and CO2, may not be the most promising biosignatures on planets around stars with high FUV/NUV ratios such as the observed M dwarfs.

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Date added: Thu, 10 Oct 13