Exoplanet Classification and Yield Estimates for Direct Imaging Missions

Ravi Kumar Kopparapu, Eric Hébrard, Rus Belikov, Natalie M. Batalha, Gijs D. Mulders, Chris Stark, Dillon Teal, Shawn Domagal-Goldman, Avi Mandell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Future NASA concept missions that are currently under study, like the Habitable Exoplanet Imaging Mission (HabEx) and the Large Ultra-violet Optical Infra Red Surveyor, could discover a large diversity of exoplanets. We propose here a classification scheme that distinguishes exoplanets into different categories based on their size and incident stellar flux, for the purpose of providing the expected number of exoplanets observed (yield) with direct imaging missions. The boundaries of this classification can be computed using the known chemical behavior of gases and condensates at different pressures and temperatures in a planetary atmosphere. In this study, we initially focus on condensation curves for sphalerite ZnS, H2O, CO2, and CH4. The order in which these species condense in a planetary atmosphere define the boundaries between different classes of planets. Broadly, the planets are divided into rocky planets (0.5-1.0 R), super-Earths (1.0-1.75 R), sub-Neptunes (1.75-3.5 R), sub-Jovians (3.5-6.0 R), and Jovians (6-14.3 R) based on their planet sizes, and "hot, " "warm, " and "cold" based on the incident stellar flux. We then calculate planet occurrence rates within these boundaries for different kinds of exoplanets, ηplanet, using the community coordinated results of NASAs Exoplanet Program Analysis Groups Science Analysis Group-13 (SAG-13). These occurrence rate estimates are in turn used to estimate the expected exoplanet yields for direct imaging missions of different telescope diameters.

Original languageEnglish
Article number122
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • planets and satellites: atmospheres
  • planets and satellites: gaseous planets
  • planets and satellites: terrestrial planets


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