Technology Tidal Locking Of Exoplanets More Common Than Thought

16:51  15 august  2017
16:51  15 august  2017 Source:   International Business Times

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His paper, “ Tidal Locking of Habitable Exoplanets ,” has been accepted for publication by the journal Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy. “Planetary formation models, however, suggest the initial rotation of a planet could be much larger than several hours, perhaps even several weeks

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This image shows the far side of the moon, illuminated by the sun, as it crosses between the DSCOVR spacecraft’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) camera and telescope, and the Earth – one million miles away. This is the side of the moon we never see from Earth because of tidal locking. <br /><br /> © Provided by IBT US This image shows the far side of the moon, illuminated by the sun, as it crosses between the DSCOVR spacecraft’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) camera and telescope, and the Earth – one million miles away. This is the side of the moon we never see from Earth because of tidal locking. 

When we look up at the moon, we see the same face each night, while the dark side of the moon lies in constant shadow. But like the Earth rotates on its axis approximately every 24 hours, the moon has a rotation too. So how does it always appear the same to us?

This happens because the Earth and our only natural satellite are tidally locked. Which is to say, the time it takes for the moon to rotate around its axis is almost the same as the time in which it completes one revolution around Earth (about 27 days). And new research, funded by NASA, suggests the same could be true for many exoplanets, including those that are yet to be found and some — such as the seven planets of the Trappist-1 system — that have already been discovered.

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The study focuses on exoplanets orbiting M dwarf stars, a class of stellar bodies significantly smaller and dimmer, yet much more common than Sun-like stars. One side of the Moon is constantly locked to planet Earth thanks to a phenomena known as tidal locking .

Barnes wrote that these results suggest that the process of tidal locking is a major factor in the evolution of most of the potentially habitable exoplanets to be discovered in the near future. Being tidally locked was once thought to lead to such extremes of climate as to eliminate any possibility of

Rory Barnes, an astronomer at the University of Washington, authored a paper titled “Tidal Locking of Habitable Exoplanets” in which he argues that every potentially habitable planet that will be discovered by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — NASA’s next planet-hunting satellite — will likely be tidally locked with its star.

According to a statement on the university’s website: “Tidal locking results when there is no side-to-side momentum between a body in space and its gravitational partner and they become fixed in their embrace. Tidally locked bodies such as the Earth and the moon are in synchronous rotation, meaning that each takes exactly as long to rotate around its own axis as it does to revolve around its host star or gravitational partner.”

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more common than believed - The new research by astronomer Rory Barnes of the University of Washington suggested that many Barnes wrote that these results suggest that the process of tidal locking is a major factor in the evolution of most of the potentially habitable exoplanets to be

His paper, " Tidal Locking of Habitable Exoplanets ," has been accepted for publication by the journal Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy. "Planetary formation models, however, suggest the initial rotation of a planet could be much larger than several hours, perhaps even several weeks

Barnes began by questioning a fundamental assumption made by scientists who worked on rotation periods of exoplanets. This assumption is based on the theory of the moon being formed when a Mars-sized object slamming into Earth. The impact is thought to have set the Earth spinning in its early days at a speed that would make the days only 12 hours long instead of the current 24. Researchers traditionally used that 12-hour estimation to model how Earth-like exoplanets would behave.

“What I did was say, maybe there are other possibilities — you could have slower or faster initial rotation periods,” Barnes said in the statement. “You could have planets larger than Earth, or planets with eccentric orbits — so by exploring that larger parameter space, you find that in fact, the old ideas were very limited, there was just one outcome there.”

As an example, he said if Earth had formed without the moon and with one day being about 96 hours long, a planetary model shows the planet would by now be tidally locked to the sun.

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A new model offers an out from a seemingly damning problem in the hunt for habitable exoplanets : tidal locking . Aided by an atmosphere 93 times more dense than our own, Venus is almost perfectly locked , with a day nearly equal to a year. (The reason it's not perfectly equal is thought to be the

The finding is valuable because tidally locked exoplanets usually orbit closely to their stars, and exoplanets that are close to their stars are not only easier for researchers to detect and observe but also more likely to contain liquid water than those with a wider orbit.

“These results suggest that the process of tidal locking is a major factor in the evolution of most of the potentially habitable exoplanets to be discovered in the near future,” Barnes said. “I think the biggest implication going forward is that as we search for life on any exoplanets we need to know if a planet is tidally locked or not.”

This is because tidal locking of planets to their stars has the potential to affect its habitability. If the same side of the planet always faces its star, the stellar radiation received by the planet was thought to lead to extremes that would make the possibility of life on it very remote. However, that view has since evolved to include other factors like the planets’ atmosphere, which could shield them from the harmful effects of the radiation, with winds that blow across the planets’ surface moderating the climate and potentially allowing life to exist.

Barnes’ paper has been accepted for publication in the journal Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy. It is currently available online on the preprint server arXiv.

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