Tagged: Theia Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • richardmitnick 10:47 am on August 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Theia, Tidally locked exoplanets,   

    From U Washington: “Tidally locked exoplanets may be more common than previously thought” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    August 14, 2017
    Peter Kelley

    1
    Tidally locked bodies such as the Earth and moon are in synchronous rotation, each taking as long to rotate around its own axis as it does to revolve around its host star or gravitational partner. New research from UW astronomer Rory Barnes indicates that many exoplanets to be found by coming high-powered telescopes also will probably be tidally locked — with one side permanently facing their host star, as one side of the moon forever faces the Earth. NASA.

    Many exoplanets to be found by coming high-powered telescopes will probably be tidally locked — with one side permanently facing their host star — according to new research by astronomer Rory Barnes of the University of Washington.

    Barnes, a UW assistant professor of astronomy and astrobiology, arrived at the finding by questioning the long-held assumption that only those stars that are much smaller and dimmer than the sun could host orbiting planets that were in synchronous orbit, or tidally locked, as the moon is with the Earth. His paper, “Tidal Locking of Habitable Exoplanets,” has been accepted for publication by the journal Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy.

    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 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. The moon takes 27 days to rotate once on its axis, and 27 days to orbit the Earth once.

    The moon is thought to have been created by a Mars-sized celestial body slamming into the young Earth at an angle that set the world spinning initially with approximately 12-hour days.

    3
    Artist’s conception of the hypothetical impact of Theia and young Earth.
    Credit: NASA/GSFC

    “The possibility of tidal locking is an old idea, but nobody had ever gone through it systematically,” said Barnes, who is affiliated with the UW-based Virtual Planetary Laboratory.

    In the past, he said, researchers tended to use that 12-hour estimation of Earth’s rotation period to model exoplanet behavior, asking, for example, how long an Earthlike exoplanet with a similar orbital spin might take to become tidally locked.

    “What I did was say, maybe there are other possibilities — you could have slower or faster initial rotation periods,” Barnes said. “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.”

    “Planetary formation models, however, suggest the initial rotation of a planet could be much larger than several hours, perhaps even several weeks,” Barnes said. “And so when you explore that range, what you find is that there’s a possibility for a lot more exoplanets to be tidally locked. For example, if Earth formed with no moon and with an initial ‘day’ that was four days long, one model predicts Earth would be tidally locked to the sun by now.”

    Barnes writes: “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 life, but astronomers have since reasoned that the presence of an atmosphere with winds blowing across a planet’s surface could mitigate these effects and allow for moderate climates and life.

    Barnes said he also considered the planets that will likely be discovered by NASA’s next planet-hunting satellite, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite or TESS, and found that every potentially habitable planet it will detect will likely be tidally locked.

    NASA/TESS

    Even if astronomers discover the long-sought Earth “twin” orbiting a virtual twin of the sun, that world may be tidally locked.

    “I think the biggest implication going forward,” Barnes said, “is that as we search for life on any exoplanets we need to know if a planet is tidally locked or not.”

    The research was funded by a NASA grant through the Virtual Planetary Laboratory.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:52 pm on August 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Theia   

    From Smithsonian: “New Moon-Formation Theory Also Raises Questions About Early Earth” 

    smithsonian
    smithsonian.com

    8.12.16
    Nola Taylor Redd

    A new model of the impact that created the moon might upend theories about earth, too

    1
    Visualization of the giant impact that formed the moon (William Hartmann)

    A new theory about how the moon formed might also tweak our understanding of early life on Earth.

    The presence of gold and platinum in Earth’s mantle has previously been assumed to be the result of a heavy shower of meteors raining down on early Earth, but new research suggests another source—one enormous impact with the object that crashed into the planet to create the moon.

    Around 4 billion years ago the Earth was under constant attack, according to geophysicists. Asteroids and meteors continuously smashed into the planet for about 100 million years, a period known as the Late Heavy Bombardment. Any life on the planet at that time would be in constant peril.

    We know about these impacts not because of the craters they left—erosion and plate tectonics have long spirited those away—but because of the presence of certain metals in the Earth’s mantle. The pockmarked surface of the moon, which is not tectonically active, also helps bolster this theory.

    But new research suggests that the bombardment may have been milder than expected, because the metals found in Earth’s mantle could instead be from the moon-forming impact, about 500 million years earlier.

    Early in the life of the solar system, a growing world known to scientists as Theia collided with the young Earth. The violent impact liquefied Earth’s outer layers and pulverized Theia, creating a ring of debris that swirled around the scarred world. Iron from Theia’s core drew together to form the heart of the moon. The remaining heavy material rained back down on Earth, and gravity drew the lighter components together to create the moon.

    But new research suggests not all of Theia’s iron built the lunar core. Instead, some may have settled on Earth’s crust, and was later drawn into the mantle through plate tectonics. Elements such as gold and platinum, which are drawn to iron, may have been pulled into the mantle along with it. Such elements are sparse in the lunar mantle, presumably because all of the iron delivered to the moon created its core while Earth’s original core remained intact after the collision.

    That could mean good news for life on the early Earth. If Theia’s core brought in traces of iron that attracted scarcer, iron-loving elements, the rain of asteroids and meteors couldn’t have been as heavy as previously estimated.

    “The Earth is not going to be completely unhabitable for a long period of time because the bombardment is relatively benign,” says Norman Sleep, a geophysicist at Stanford University. Sleep investigated the idea that Theia could have brought platinum and similar elements to Earth’s mantle, comparing it with previous suggestions that meteors delivered the material. In a recent paper published in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, he found that Theia could have brought in enough iron-loving elements to suggest later bombardment was milder than previously considered.

    “It was certainly not anything we would survive, but we’re dealing with microbes,” he says.

    However, without a heavy bombardment of meteorites, a new problem arises. The collision between Theia and the young Earth would have vaporized any water on the planet. The leading theory for how Earth got its water back is via collisions with water-carrying meteorites, but meteorites would also have delivered more iron-loving elements along with iron, leaving behind too much gold and platinum than measured. That means Sleep’s calculations would require another method of bringing water to the planet.

    That doesn’t make the theory a deal-breaker. “There’s no guarantee that there’s one event that solves every problem,” says Tim Swindle, who studies planetary materials at the University of Arizona. Water could have come from another source unrelated to Theia.

    Figuring out exactly what happened in the early life of Earth and its moon may require a return to our satellite. “We’ve got to go back to the moon and get a better handle on the age of the basins,” Swindle says, especially those on the back side of the moon. “We might be able to get an age with a rover that could answer the questions, but I think we’d do better to bring the samples back.” That doesn’t necessarily mean humans have to be onboard the lunar mission, but, as Swindle points out, people do a great job.

    Sleep agrees, calling for a visit to the South Pole Aiken basin, the largest and oldest of those on the moon. That basin has never been sampled, and should provide insight into the timing of the bombardment, which would give clues into how much material rained down on Earth.

    According to Edward Young, a planetary scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, the biggest result of Sleep’s research is the mental shift it requires for the scientists studying Earth and the moon. “I think what he’s doing is exposing the soft underbelly of what we do,” Young says, adding that geochemical arguments are filled with basic assumptions of the processes that go into building the Earth and moon. “He’s challenging some of those assumptions.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Smithsonian magazine and Smithsonian.com place a Smithsonian lens on the world, looking at the topics and subject matters researched, studied and exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution — science, history, art, popular culture and innovation — and chronicling them every day for our diverse readership.

     
c
Compose new post
j
Next post/Next comment
k
Previous post/Previous comment
r
Reply
e
Edit
o
Show/Hide comments
t
Go to top
l
Go to login
h
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
Cancel
%d bloggers like this: