Date of Completion

Spring 5-19-2014

Thesis Advisor(s)

Vasili A. Kharchenko; Nicholas Lewkow

Honors Major

Engineering Physics


Astrophysics and Astronomy | Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics


Hot Jupiters are a class of extra-solar planets. Massive gas giants on the same size scale as Jupiter, they orbit their host stars closely. This proximity results in large stellar winds capable of stripping away a planet’s atmosphere. Developing a more complete understanding of atmospheric mass loss and evolution in planetary bodies is critical, and Hot Jupiter systems are accessible analogues.

This project will seek to create a computational model capable of estimating mass loss rates due to stellar winds. A Monte Carlo method is utilized to take an ensemble of single, high-energy energetic neutral particles, produced by kilo-electronvolt stellar wind ions, and and trace their path through theoretical atmospheres. As these particles travel, they collide many times, imparting energy to the atmospheric molecules and potentially exciting them to high enough energies to escape the planetary gravity. Different mechanisms for particle interaction and escape will also be analyzed in order to determine their impact on the mass loss rates. Overall, this modelling method can be used to predict the effects of variables on the flux of escaping particles for different parametric families of observed hot Jupiters.