Night side of tidally-locked super-Earth LHS 3844b may be littered with volcanoes, study claims- Technology News, Firstpost

LHS 3844b is an exoplanet that was discovered in 2018 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Now, a latest research conducted by the researchers at the University of Bern has shown that the nightside of the planet is tectonically active, reported SciNews. Scientists discuss, in a peer-reviewed study published in journal Astrophysical Journal Letters, how thermal fluctuations of the super-Earth reveals the exoplanet’s solid surface and lack of a substantial atmosphere.

LHS 3844b appears to be ‘tidally locked’, i.e., one side of the planet permanently facing the star, much like we see only one face of the moon, for the same reason. The star-facing side, or dayside, of the super-Earth is about 770 degrees Celsius, while the nightside is much colder, with temperatures below minus 250 degrees Celsius.

The research team at Bern suspected that this stark temperature contrast will likely affect how material flows in the planet’s interior. They ran simulations with different strengths of material and internal heating sources, including from the planet’s core and decay of radioactive elements.

Illustration of exoplanet and super Earth LHS3844b. Image: Wikimedia Commons

“Most simulations showed that there was only upwards flow on one side of the planet and downwards flow on the other,” lead author Dr. Tobias Meier, an astronomer in the Center for Space and Habitability at Bern, said in a statement from the university.  “Material therefore flowed from one hemisphere to the other. Surprisingly, the direction was not always the same.”

Speaking about the consequences of such movement, University of Bern researcher Dan Bower said that the upward flow of material can cause a large amount of volcanism on whichever side of the planet it flows, as per a EurekAlert report on the finding.

Volcanoes could be lighting up the night sky of this exoplanet. Image: University of Bern/Thibaut Roger

Volcanoes could be lighting up the night sky of this exoplanet. Image: University of Bern/Thibaut Roger

The scientists went to describe LHS 3844b as a planet that likely has a hemisphere where volcanism is very common, and another that has none.

The study offers a possible mechanism for how this contrast could exist under certain conditions. But the conditions still need to be verified. Researchers also said that higher-resolution maps of the surface temperature could point to places where there is unusual outgassing from volcanism, or other indications of volcanic gases.

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