Observational constraints on the likelihood of 26Al in planet-forming environmentsOPEN ACCESS 

Megan Reiter

accepted to A&A Letters


“Recent work suggests that 26Al may determine the water budget in terrestrial exoplanets as its radioactive decay dehydrates planetesimals leading to rockier compositions. Here I consider the observed distribution of 26Al in the Galaxy and typical star-forming environments to estimate the likelihood of 26Al enrichment during planet formation. I do not assume Solar-System-specific constraints as I am interested in enrichment for exoplanets generally. Observations indicate that high-mass stars dominate the production of 26Al with nearly equal contributions from their winds and supernovae. 26Al abundances are comparable to those in the early Solar System in the high-mass star-forming regions where most stars (and thereby most planets) form. These high abundances appear to be maintained for a few Myr, much longer than the 0.7 Myr half-life. Observed bulk 26Al velocities are an order of magnitude slower than expected from winds and supernovae. These observations are at odds with typical model assumptions that 26Al is provided instantaneously by high velocity mass loss from supernovae and winds. Regular replenishment of 26Al especially when coupled with the small age differences that are common in high-mass star-forming complexes, may significantly increase the number of star/planet-forming systems exposed to 26Al. Exposure does not imply enrichment, but the order of magnitude slower velocity of 26Al may alter the fraction that is incorporated into planet-forming material. Together, this suggests that the conditions for rocky planet formation are not rare, nor are they ubiquitous, as small regions like Taurus that lack high-mass stars to produce 26Al may be less likely to form rocky planets. I conclude with suggested directions for future studies. “