Dynamical Considerations for Life in Multihabitable Planetary Systems

Inspired by the close-proximity pair of planets in the Kepler-36 system, we consider two effects that may have important ramifications for the development of life in similar systems where a pair of planets may reside entirely in the habitable zone of the hosting star.

Specifically, we run numerical simulations to determine whether strong, resonant (or non-resonant) planet-planet interactions can cause large variations in planet obliquity---thereby inducing large variations in climate. We also determine whether or not resonant interactions affect the rate of lithopanspermia between the planet pair---which could facilitate the growth and maintenance of life on both planets. We find that first-order resonances do not cause larger obliquity variations compared with non-resonant cases. We also find that resonant interactions are not a primary consideration in lithopanspermia.

Lithopanspermia is enhanced significantly as the planet orbits come closer together---reaching nearly the same rate as ejected material falling back to the surface of the originating planet (assuming that the ejected material makes it out to the location of our initial conditions). Thus, in both cases our results indicate that close-proximity planet pairs in multihabitable systems are conducive to life in the system.

Jason H. Steffen (1), Gongjie Li (2) ((1) University of Nevada, Las Vegas (2) Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
(Submitted on 30 Nov 2015)

Comments: 11 pages, accepted for publication in ApJ
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1511.09211 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1511.09211v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Jason Steffen
[v1] Mon, 30 Nov 2015 09:21:20 GMT (852kb,D)

Please follow Astrobiology on Twitter.

  • submit to reddit