What is Neptune's D/H ratio really telling us about its water abundance?

Mohamad Ali-Dib, Gunjan Lakhlani

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    We investigate the deep-water abundance of Neptune using a simple two-component (core + envelope) toy model. The free parameters of the model are the total mass of heavy elements in the planet (Z), the mass fraction of Z in the envelope (fenv), and the D/H ratio of the accreted building blocks (D/Hbuild).We systematically search the allowed parameter space on a grid and constrain it using Neptune's bulk carbon abundance, D/H ratio, and interior structure models. Assuming solar C/O ratio and cometary D/H for the accreted building blocks are forming the planet, we can fit all of the constraints if less than ~15 per cent of Z is in the envelope (fenvmedian ~ 7 per cent), and the rest is locked in a solid core. This model predicts a maximum bulk oxygen abundance in Neptune of 65× solar value. If we assume a C/O of 0.17, corresponding to clathrate-hydrates building blocks, we predict a maximum oxygen abundance of 200× solar value with a median value of ~140. Thus, both cases lead to oxygen abundance significantly lower than the preferred value of Cavalie et al. (~540×solar), inferred from model-dependent deep CO observations. Such high-water abundances are excluded by our simple but robust model. We attribute this discrepancy to our imperfect understanding of either the interior structure of Neptune or the chemistry of the primordial protosolar nebula.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1169-1173
    Number of pages5
    JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - May 1 2018


    • Planets and satellites: composition
    • Planets and satellites: formation

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science


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