Exoplanets & Exomoons

Habitability of Exomoons at the Hill or Tidal Locking Radius

By Keith Cowing
July 18, 2013
Filed under
Habitability of Exomoons at the Hill or Tidal Locking Radius

Moons orbiting extrasolar planets are the next class of object to be observed and characterized for possible habitability. Like the host-planets to their host-star, exomoons have a limiting radius at which they may be gravitationally bound, or the Hill radius.

In addition, they also have a distance at which they will become tidally locked and therefore in synchronous rotation with the planet. We have examined the flux phase profile of a simulated, hypothetical moon orbiting at a distant radius around the confirmed exoplanets mu Ara b, HD 28185 b, BD +14 4559 b, and HD 73534 b. The irradiated flux on a moon at it’s furthest, stable distance from the planet achieves it’s largest flux gradient, which places a limit on the flux ranges expected for subsequent (observed) moons closer in orbit to the planet.

We have also analyzed the effect of planetary eccentricity on the flux on the moon, examining planets that traverse the habitable zone either fully or partially during their orbit. Looking solely at the stellar contributions, we find that moons around planets that are totally within the habitable zone experience thermal equilibrium temperatures above the runaway greenhouse limit, requiring a small heat redistribution efficiency. In contrast, exomoons orbiting planets that only spend a fraction of their time within the habitable zone require a heat redistribution efficiency near 100% in order to achieve temperatures suitable for habitability.

Meaning, a planet does not need to spend its entire orbit within the habitable zone in order for the exomoon to be habitable. Because the applied systems are comprised of giant planets around bright stars, we believe that the transit detection method is most likely to yield an exomoon discovery.

Natalie R. Hinkel, Stephen R. Kane
(Submitted on 17 Jul 2013)

Comments: 11 pages, 8 figures, 3 tables, Accepted to Astrophysical Journal

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:1307.4760 [astro-ph.EP]

(or arXiv:1307.4760v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Natalie Hinkel [view email]
[v1] Wed, 17 Jul 2013 20:00:02 GMT (1527kb)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻