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Beyond Earthly Skies

Habitable Tidally Heated Exomoons

12 Feb 2013, 15:36 UTC
Habitable Tidally Heated Exomoons
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Direct imagine of exoplanets is a very challenging task. This is especially true for exoplanets that are found within the Habitable Zone of their host stars. The reason for this is that a star is many orders of magnitude brighter than a planet and when observed over interstellar distances, the angular separation between the star and planet is very small. Nonetheless, it does become less difficult to directly image a planet that is located further from its host star because an increase in the star-planet angular separation places the planet further from the glare of its host star. However, such exoplanets tend to be gas giant planets that are located well outside the Habitable Zone of their host stars. Within our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn are typical examples of such planets.Although gas giant planets are unlikely places for life to exist, they can have systems of moons where life may exist on some of them. Beyond the Habitable Zone, insolation becomes inadequate to warm an exomoon sufficiently for liquid water to exist on its surface. As a result, tidal heating serves as a viable mechanism to provide the extra amount of energy needed to raise the equilibrium temperature of ...

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