On the possibility of liquid water on hot SuperEarths

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On the possibility of liquid water on hot SuperEarths

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 19th June 2011, 4:02 am

Effects of Stellar Flux on Tidally Locked Terrestrial Planets: Degree-1 Mantle Convection and Local Magma Ponds

We model the geodynamical evolution of super-Earth exoplanets in synchronous rotation about their star. While neglecting the effects of a potential atmosphere, we explore the parameter spaces of both the Rayleigh number and intensity of incoming stellar flux, and identify two main stages of mantle convection evolution. The first is a transient stage in which a lithospheric temperature and thickness dichotomy emerges between the substellar and the antistellar hemispheres, while the style of mantle convection is dictated by the Rayleigh number. The second stage is the development of degree-1 mantle convection. Depending on mantle properties, the timescale of onset of this second stage of mantle evolution varies from order 1 to 100 billion years of simulated planetary evolution. Planets with higher Rayleigh numbers (due to, for instance, larger planetary radii than the Earth) and planets whose incoming stellar flux is high (likely for most detectable exoplanets) will develop degree-1 mantle convection most quickly, on the order of 1 billion years, which is within the age of many planetary systems. Surface temperatures range from 220 K to 830 K, implying the possibility of liquid water in some regions near the surface. These results are discussed in the context of stable molten magma ponds on hotter planets, and the habitability of super-Earths which may lie outside the Habitable Zone.

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