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Beyond Earthly Skies

Trapping Water on the Night Side of a Planet

14 Nov 2014, 22:00 UTC
Trapping Water on the Night Side of a Planet
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

The presence of liquid water on a planet’s surface is a prerequisite for habitability. Planets circling within the habitable zone of red dwarf stars are believed to be tidally-locked. This is because red dwarf stars are much cooler than stars like the Sun and a planet must be situated much closer in to receive a similar amount of warmth Earth gets from the Sun. As a result, strong tidal interaction between the planet and its host star quickly drives the planet into a tidally-locked configuration. A tidally-locked planet always presents the same hemisphere towards its host star, resulting in a permanent day side and a permanent night side.On the planet’s permanent night side, large amounts of water can become trapped in kilometres-thick ice sheets. This mechanism is known as water trapping and it can potentially cause the planet’s day side to be depleted of water. The consequence is that the planet becomes less habitable or not habitable at all since it is only on the planet’s day side where photosynthesis is possible. A study by Yang et al. (2014) suggests that water trapping is unlikely to remove all the water from the day side of a tidally-locked planet.For a planet ...

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