Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tides Have Major Impact on Planet Habitability

14.10.2008
Astronomers searching for rocky planets that could support life in other solar systems should look outside, as well as within, the so-called "habitable zone," University of Arizona planetary scientists say.

Planets too close to their stars are roasted. Planets too far from their stars are frozen. In between, research models show, there's a habitable zone where planet temperatures approximate Earth's. Any rocky planets in this just-right Goldilocks zone could be awash in liquid water, a requisite for life as we know it, theorists say.

New research by Brian Jackson, Rory Barnes and Richard Greenberg of UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory shows that tides can play a major role in heating terrestrial planets, creating hellish conditions on rocky alien worlds that otherwise might be livable. And just the other way, tidal heat can also create conditions favorable to life on planets that would otherwise be unlivable.

Jackson presented the research Saturday at the 40th annual meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences in Ithaca, N.Y. His talk is titled "Tidal Heating of Extrasolar Terrestrial-scale Planets and Constraints on Habitability." The research will be published soon in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Our own solar system is something of an anomaly, in that its planets move in relatively quiescent, circular orbits around the sun. Most extrasolar planets found to date have highly elongated orbits. During each orbit, the planet is stretched most by tides when it is near the star, and less when the planet is farther from its star. The resulting friction generates internal heat, which drives the planet's geophysical processes.

If the recently discovered "super-Earths" ? extrasolar planets only 2-to-10 times as massive as Earth ? are indeed terrestrial, tidal heating may be great enough to melt them, or at least produce volcanism on par with Jupiter's moon, Io, "dimming their prospects for habitability," Jackson said. So some of the recently discovered super-Earths may be more like "super-Ios," he said. The lo moon is the most volcanically active body in our solar system.

"Tidal heating scales with planet mass, so we expect that most easily detectable super-Earths will be dominated by volcanic activity," Jackson said. "That's one of our first conclusions from this work, that the first Earth-like planets found are probably going to be strongly heated and have big volcanoes. Even if Earth-like planets are found within the habitable zone, they may not be habitable because they will be overwhelmed by this tidal heating."

Tidal heating may also create habitable conditions on planets that otherwise are too small or too cold to support life, Jackson said. Tidal heating can enhance outgassing of volatiles that contribute or replenish a planet's atmosphere through volcanism. Tidal heating also can generate sub-surface liquid oceans on water-rich rocky planets that would otherwise be frozen, just as tidal heating is believed to warm a sub-surface liquid water ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa.

Also, tidal heating can drive plate tectonics, a mechanism that checks excessive carbon dioxide from accumulating in a planetary atmosphere, producing the kind of deadly greenhouse atmosphere found on Venus.

"Our study shows that tidal heating could produce enough heat to drive plate tectonics for billions of years, long enough for life to appear and flourish,"

Jackson said.

SCIENCE CONTACTS:
Brian Jackson (520-626-3154; bjackson@lpl.arizona.edu) Rory Barnes (520-626-3154; rory@lpl.arizona.edu) Richard Greenberg (520-621-6950; greenberg@lpl.arizona.edu)

Lori Stiles | University of Arizona
Further information:
http://www.arizona.edu

Further reports about: Earth-like planets Planet Planetary Tides plate tectonics rocky planet solar system

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Molecule flash mob
19.01.2017 | Technische Universität Wien

nachricht Magnetic moment of a single antiproton determined with greatest precision ever
19.01.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>