Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .




EXO WORLDS
Earth-Like Planet Probably A Wasteland
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jan 06, 2010


illustration only

When scientists confirmed in October that they had detected the first rocky planet outside our solar system, it advanced the longtime quest to find an Earth-like planet hospitable to life.

Rocky planets - Earth, Mercury, Venus and Mars - make up half the planets in our solar system. Rocky planets are considered better environments to support life than planets that are mainly gaseous, like the other half of the planets in our system: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

The rocky planet CoRoT-7 b was discovered circling a star some 480 light years from Earth. It is, however, a forbidding place and unlikely to harbor life. That's because it is so close to its star that temperatures might be above 4,000 degrees F (2,200 C) on the surface lit by its star and as low as minus 350 F (minus 210 C) on its dark side.

Now scientists led by a University of Washington astronomer say that if CoRoT-7 b's orbit is not almost perfectly circular, then the planet might also be undergoing fierce volcanic eruptions. It could be even more volcanically active than Jupiter's moon Io, which has more than 400 volcanoes and is the most geologically active object in our solar system.

"If conditions are what we speculate, then CoRoT-7 b could have multiple volcanoes going off continuously and magma flowing all over the surface," says Rory Barnes, a UW postdoctoral researcher of astronomy and astrobiology. Any planet where the surface is being remade at such a rate is a place nearly impossible for life to get a foothold, he says.

Calculations about CoRoT-7 b's orbit and probable volcanism were presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, D.C., during a session Jan. 5 and as part of a press briefing Jan. 6. CoRoT-7 b was discovered by a French-led team using the CoRoT - Convection, Rotation and Planetary Transits - satellite.

The next step to finding a planet that harbors life may have to wait until astronomers are better able to detect rocky planets that are farther from their stars, Barnes says. "Because it is easier to detect planets that orbit close to their host stars, a significant fraction of the first wave of rocky planets being found outside our solar system may be more Io-like than Earth-like."

Barnes and his colleagues suspect CoRoT-7 b is subject to extreme volcanism partly because it is so close to its sun, the distance between the two being about 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers). That's about 60 times closer than the Earth is to the sun.

Volcanism is then triggered by even a tiny deviation from a circular orbit. How tiny of a deviation? About 155 miles (250 kilometers), according to calculations done by Barnes based on how bodies in our solar system influence each other's orbits. That's about the distance from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia. That amount of deviation, or more, could be caused by the gravitational pull of the next planet out from CoRoT-7 b.

Deviations in its orbit would set tidal forces in motion that flex and distort the whole shape of CoRoT-7 b. This is different from what happens on Earth, where oceans absorb the energy of tidal forces.

"CoRoT-7 b most certainly has no oceans. A planet on a non-circular orbit experiences different amounts of gravitational force at different points along the orbit, feeling the strongest gravitational pull when it is closest to the star and the weakest when it is most distant. As the planet moves between these two points, it stretches and relaxes. This flexing produces friction that heats the interior of the planet resulting in volcanism on the surface," Barnes says.

"This scenario is exactly what is occurring on Jupiter's moon Io. For planets like CoRoT-7 b, however, the heating may be much, much stronger than on Io."

The work was funded by NASA's Virtual Planetary Laboratory. Co-presenters at the American Astronomical Society are Sean Raymond, University of Colorado, Boulder; Richard Greenberg, University of Arizona; Nathan Kaib, a NASA postdoctoral program fellow at the UW; and Brian Jackson, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.

.


Related Links
-
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





EXO WORLDS
NASA's Kepler space telescope finds five new exoplanets
Washington (AFP) Jan 4, 2010
NASA's Kepler space telescope has discovered five new planets beyond the solar system, the US space agency said Monday, just 10 months after Kepler launched into space to find Earth-like planets. The discovery of the five exoplanets "contributes to our understanding of how planetary systems form and evolve from the gas and dust disks that give rise to both the stars and their planets," NASA' ... read more


EXO WORLDS
Lava tube could house moon colony

Moon Mission In Running For Next Big Space Venture

Obama cuts moon travel, links NASA to private firms

3D Measurements Of Apollo 14 Landing Site

EXO WORLDS
Minimal Progress In Recent Extraction Drives

Goddard Scientist Breakthrough Given Ticket To Mars

Mars Spirit Rover Facing End Of Mission Decision

Mars rover Spirit's 6-year stint may be ending: NASA

EXO WORLDS
Galactic GPS Possible With Pulsars And Gravity Waves

US still has space ambitions: NASA chief

Chairman Gordon Comments On President's Budget Request

South Korea to send its cuisine into space

EXO WORLDS
China Building Large Radio Telescope For Space Observation

China To Launch Civil HD Survey Satellite In 2011

China Launches First Public-Welfare Mini Satellite

Chang'e-1 Has Blazed A New Trail In China's Deep Space Exploration

EXO WORLDS
How To Live Long And Prosper In Space

Russia Set To Launch Another Space Truck To ISS

Obama budget extends US commitment to space station

Mini-Research Module MRM1 At Cape For Shuttle Processing

EXO WORLDS
Arianespace Poised For 2010 Boost

Booz Allen Hamilton To Transform LA Spacelift Range

Apron Construction Contract Awarded For Spaceport America

Shuttle-Derived Vehicle: Shuttle-Derived Disaster

EXO WORLDS
Sun Glints Seen From Space Signal Oceans And Lakes

NASA's Kepler space telescope finds five new exoplanets

Just 15 Percent Of Solar Systems Like Ours

Earth-Like Planet Probably A Wasteland

EXO WORLDS
Blockbuster 'Avatar' to accelerate 3D revolution

Y2X bugs strikes 30 million German credit cards

Superatom mimicry offers insights to periodic table

An Easy Way To See Thinnest Material




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement