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This model searches for Earth-like planets with plate tectonics

This model searches for Earth-like planets with plate tectonics

An international team of geologists, led by North Carolina State University, has developed a computer model dedicated to identifying Earth-like exoplanets. The goal is to identify planets from other star systems capable of maintaining plate tectonics and how this dynamic may (or may not contribute) to their potential habitability. Extrasolar worlds.

It is believed that plate tectonic dynamics, like what is found on Earth, is an essential component of the habitability of the planet. As a direct result of the movement of these plates, volcanoes and chemical atmospheric factors, along with the presence of liquid water, contribute to maintaining the Earth’s climate, thus ensuring the existence of life on our planet.

(Photo: Reproduction/University of St Andrews)

Study co-author Sami Mikhail from the University of St Andrews said the new model helps predict the nature of plate tectonics on other planets. Instead of looking for the right temperature for The presence of liquid water, a new parameter for the viability of an exoplanet can be identified from the ideal conditions for tectonic occurrence.

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Mikhail and his team ran the model including data such as planetary and stellar characteristics that affect the thickness of the outer shell of a planetary body. They note that young planets, old or far from their stars, have thick and solid layers, but in other contexts they can have thin layers – called “eggshell planets”.

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The habitable zone, where water can be found in a liquid state, is one of the criteria guiding the search for life outside the solar system (Image: cloning/NASA)

The thickness of a planet’s outer layer is critical in determining, for example, whether this world is capable of supporting plate tectonics and even housing conditions on its surface. Many factors influence the thickness of this layer, such as the size of an exoplanet and how much energy it receives from its host star – information that has also been added to the models.

The researchers noted that surface temperature was more important for habitability than the planet’s interior temperature. Some of the exoplanets known as “eggshells” have very thin crusts, only about a kilometer deep – while Earth and Mars are respectively 40 kilometers and 100 kilometers thick.

The team hopes that the new model will identify the best candidates for exoplanet exploration with large and powerful telescopes, such as James Webb Space Telescope, due to launch next month. These powerful tools will be able to search for vital fingerprints in the atmospheres of these distant worlds – that is, if life as we know it is also present on them.

The study was published in the scientific journal Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

Source: Phys.org

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