LHS 3844 b: Discovery of the first exoplanet with tectonic activity

Despite the colossal efforts we have already made in hopes of finding exoplanets favorable to the development of life, aliens have so far been pure fiction. But the situation could change with this new discovery. As our colleagues at Next Web say, astronomers first discovered a planet outside our solar system with tectonic activity.

The exoplanet LHS 3844 b, about 45 light years away, is said to be slightly larger than Earth and has no atmosphere, which makes it easier for researchers to observe the course of the tectonic process. Its discovery dates back to 2019, but it wasn’t until last February that a first concrete report about it was published in the Astrophysical Journal.

A tectonic activity different from that of Earth

Its tectonic activity is one of the peculiarities that make the earth a unique celestial body in the solar system. The earth’s crust consists of several plates that float on the mantle. These plates move and their movements are the source of the earth’s tectonic activity that would have allowed life to exist as we know it.

Observations by a team of scientists led by Tobias Meier from the Center for Space Travel and Habitability (CSH) at the University of Bern showed that the tectonic activity of the exoplanet LHS 3844b is generated by fluxes inside, which move materials from one side of the planet to the other.

A face is always exposed to light

In addition to the fact that it has no atmosphere, LHS 3844b also has the peculiarity of orbiting at a fairly close distance from its star, a red dwarf named LHS 3844. In addition, the exoplanet rotates around the latter, with the same face still exposed to light, much like the moon rotates around the earth. As a result, the face that is always lit is extremely hot. It reaches temperatures of up to 800 ° C. The hidden side is in turn constantly frozen. Its temperature is estimated at -240 ° C.

The same side is still exposed to light, much like the moon revolving around the earth. Image credit: NASA

Computer simulations for a better understanding of the geology

This enormous temperature contrast led the researchers to carefully examine the geology of the exoplanet, which they suspected to have certain rivers. To verify this theory, the team developed computer models. These indicated that the geology of LHS 3844b likely results in mantle material flowing from one side of the planet to the other. “Most simulations have shown that there is only an upward current on one side of the planet and a downward current on the other. So the matter flowed from one hemisphere to the other, ”said Tobias. This would explain why the face exposed to the light is full of volcanoes while the other is almost free of them.

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