Habitable Zone Conditions – Tidal Effects Modify Previous Concept

Nothing is more compelling than the unknown. It propels you to go further beyond your limits and defy expectations. Scientists have always been in a continuous search of extraterrestrial life forms of planets that fall within the habitable zone. Extra solar planets – or what is coined as exoplanets were discovered in 1995 which are found to be just outside our solar system. These planets are found to be within range of the sun in which the temperature conditions of the planets’ surface can accommodate liquid water. Water is said to be the main core of life. It is a basic necessity that which sustains life in myriad of forms – which is in fact a tell-tale sign that there might be life present in these planets and it is more so, conducive for life to prosper in such conditions. Researchers are able to verify a planet’s temperature by checking its distance to the central star as well as the planet’s atmospheric components. But now, the recent study of Heller and colleagues on the tidal waves in these earth-like planets which are triggered by low-mass stars will change the conventional concept of what should be considered as a habitable zone.

Heller further explained this with three varied range of effects. First off, tides can adversely affect the planet’s rotation and make it turn at a closer range to its orbit in a few million years; while Earth’s axis of rotation leans closer to 23.5 degrees. This distinct effect is what causes variations in seasons. In connection to this effect, there are no observed seasonal changes on these Earth-like planets found in the habitable zone of these low-mass stars. The extreme shifts in temperature causes intense variation of storms and winds. These planets are seen to have vast variations in temperature between their poles which would be in climactic severe freezing point while the scorching hot equators can destroy the atmosphere over the long haul.

Second effect would be the tides’ tendency to heat up the exoplanet which is likened to the tidal heat wave of Io which is an eruptive moon of Jupiter that exhibits global volcanism.

Lastly, these tides can prompt the rotational period of these planets referred to as planet’s day to jive with the orbital period or the planet’s year. This situation is similar to the setup of the Earth towards the moon in which the moon only tend to show one face while the other side remains hidden or popularly referred to as “the dark side of the moon.” Hence, the exoplanets experience extreme changes in temperature – severe radiation from the star and the other half exposed to extreme freezing temperature in pitch black darkness.

Thus, as far as these observations are noted – the habitable zone is not as homey or comfortable as Earth; in fact, it may not even inhabitable at all. From a spectator’s opinion, low-mass stars still stood up to have the most potential to pinpoint habitable exoplanets. But, with Heller’s recent findings, the exoplanets which have been categorized to be on the habitable zone based on low-mass stars will now have yet to be re-assessed whilst considering the factor of tidal effects.

Heller; as well as his colleagues, has integrated their theory to GI581g – which is an exoplanet contender that has been recently tagged as habitable. Further, they discovered that GI581g its day should be synchronized to its year and that it should not experience any seasonal changes. More so, there seems to be no water found on the planet’s surface which makes it uninhabitable in effect.

Heller figured with consideration of tidal effects that there might be a thin and almost austere possibility of life in exoplanets once found to be in the habitable zone around these low-mass stars. He stresses further that if people are out looking for a second earth then they might as well look for yet another sun.