Thorium Abundances in Solar Twins and Analogues: Implications for the Habitability of Extrasolar Planetary Systems

We present the first investigation of Th abundances in Solar twins and analogues to understand the possible range of this radioactive element and its effect on rocky planet interior dynamics and potential habitability.

The abundances of the radioactive elements Th and U are key components of a planet's energy budget, making up 30% to 50% of the Earth's (Korenaga 2008; All\`egre et al. 2001; Schubert et al. 1980; Lyubetskaya & Korenaga 2007; The KamLAND Collaboration 2011; Huang et al. 2013). Radiogenic heat drives interior mantle convection and surface plate tectonics, which sustains a deep carbon and water cycle and thereby aides in creating Earth's habitable surface. Unlike other heat sources that are dependent on the planet's specific formation history, the radiogenic heat budget is directly related to the mantle concentration of these nuclides.

As a refractory element, the stellar abundance of Th is faithfully reflected in the terrestrial planet's concentration. We find that log eps Th varies from 59% to 251% that of Solar, suggesting extrasolar planetary systems may possess a greater energy budget with which to support surface to interior dynamics and thus increase their likelihood to be habitable compared to our Solar System.

Cayman T. Unterborn, Jennifer A. Johnson, Wendy R. Panero
(Submitted on 1 May 2015)
Comments: 7 pages, 6 figures
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1505.00280 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1505.00280v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Cayman Unterborn
[v1] Fri, 1 May 2015 20:48:13 GMT (256kb)

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