LHS 3844b Records First Ever Tectonic Activity On Exoplanet Full Of Volcanoes

A recent study undertaken by researchers at the University of Bern revealed that the nightside of an exoplanet called LHS 3844b is tectonically active.

In a peer-reviewed report, scientists explore how the super-thermal Earth’s variations show the exoplanet’s stable surface and absence of a significant atmosphere.

Experts published the study, “Hemispheric Tectonics on LHS 3844b,” in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Contrast Between Temperatures
Forbes said the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite detected LHS 3844b, an exoplanet orbiting the red dwarf star LHS 3844, in 2018. It has a radius of 1.32 times that of Earth and orbits its parent star every 11 hours. It has a low albedo, which suggests that its surface is similar to that of the Moon or Mercury.

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Notably, LHS 3844b is a rocky planet with no atmosphere facing its star in the same direction. As a result, one side of LHS 3844b is regularly heated, while the other is permanently frozen.

ScienceAlert said the sun-facing side of this exoplanet burns at 800 degrees Celsius (1470 degrees Fahrenheit), while the nightside sees temperatures as low as -250 degrees Celsius (-420 degrees Fahrenheit).

“We thought that such a large temperature difference could affect the flow of matter inside the planet,” said astronomer Tobias Meier of the Bernese University.

Researchers discovered that the upwelling of material on one side of the globe could contribute to active vulcanism across that hemisphere. This will be close to the mechanisms that drive Hawaii’s and Iceland’s heavily volcanic areas.

Such circumstances may contribute to the formation of a volcanic planet, with one half covered with volcanoes and the other half almost devoid of them.

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Astronomers have shown that LHS 3844b can be tectonic using models focused on planet measurements – observations centered on the planet’s visibility and temperatures. The majority of simulations revealed that the movement of matter within the planet happens only in the direction of the nucleus on one side and only in the direction of the surface.

However, some models created an inverted scenario, which puzzled astronomers due to how tectonic movement appears on Earth.

“Given what we’re used to on Earth, you’d expect the matter on the hotter side of the planet to be lighter, so it’s going to flow toward the surface and vice versa,” co-author Dan Bower at the University of Bern and the NCCR PlanetS explains.

The researchers believe that one side of LHS 3844b is heavily dotted with volcanoes, while the other is devoid of them entirely, based on the simulations. Any of which is due to the temperature difference. Tectonic motions on the surface of exoplanets, on the other hand, are unlike anything we’ve seen in our solar system. Volcanoes, like LHS 3844b, only grow on Earth in locations like Hawaii or Iceland.

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“Based on what we are used to from Earth, you would expect the material on the hot dayside to be lighter and therefore flow upwards and vice versa,” Bower said.

Who knows, maybe one day we’ll be able to construct strong enough telescopes to see if LHS 3844b is tectonically active and if about half of it is riddled by volcanoes.

We’ll have to focus on the simulation results before then.

Originally published at The Science Times

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