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Emerging Possibilities and Insuperable Limitations of Exogeophysics: The Example of Plate Tectonics

Stamenković, Vlada and Seager, Sara (2016) Emerging Possibilities and Insuperable Limitations of Exogeophysics: The Example of Plate Tectonics. Astrophysical Journal, 825 (1). Art. No. 78. ISSN 0004-637X. doi:10.3847/0004-637X/825/1/78.

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To understand the evolution and the habitability of any rocky exoplanet demands detailed knowledge about its geophysical state and history—such as predicting the tectonic mode of a planet. Yet no astronomical observation can directly confirm or rule out the occurrence of plate tectonics on a given exoplanet. Moreover, the field of plate tectonics is still young—questioning whether we should study plate tectonics on exoplanets at this point in time. In this work, we determine the limitations and the emerging possibilities of exogeophysics, the science of connecting geophysics to exoplanets, on the example of plate tectonics. Assuming current uncertainties in model and planet parameters, we develop a qualitatively probabilistic and conservative framework to estimate on what kind of planets and where in the Galaxy plate tectonics might occur. This we achieve by modeling how plate yielding, the most critical condition needed for plate mobility and subduction, is affected by directly observable (planet mass, size) or indirectly, to some degree, assessable planet properties (structure and composition). Our framework not only highlights the importance of a planet's chemistry for the existence of plate tectonics and the path toward practical exogeophysics but also demonstrates how exoplanet science can actually help to better understand geophysics and the fundamentals of plate tectonics on Earth itself.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Stamenković, Vlada0000-0003-2416-3683
Seager, Sara0000-0002-6892-6948
Additional Information:© 2016 The American Astronomical Society. Received 2014 December 2; accepted 2016 March 7; published 2016 July 1. V.S. thanks the Simons Foundation for kindly supporting this work through a "Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life" fellowship (338555, VS), Adrian Lenardic, Tobias Höink, and Doris Brever for insightful discussions, an anonymous reviewer for comments, and Steinn Sigurdson for his editorial work.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Simons Foundation338555
Subject Keywords:astrobiology; Earth; planets and satellites: composition; planets and satellites: interiors; planets and satellites: tectonics; planets and satellites: terrestrial planets
Issue or Number:1
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20160930-132359568
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Official Citation:Vlada Stamenković and Sara Seager 2016 ApJ 825 78
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:70702
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:30 Sep 2016 21:55
Last Modified:11 Nov 2021 04:33

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