Sunday, March 19, 2017

Plate tectonics: now available in super Earths!

[Plate tectonics on Earth or a faraway planet?]
     Want to get away from Trump and go to another planet? Worried the newly discovered Earth-like planets won't have the plate tectonics you wanted? You may be in luck! According to a study by Valencia and O'Connell (2007), there is a possibility of plate tectonics on some super earths that have been discovered since 2007. This conclusion was reached using previous knowledge of the necessary components for plate tectonics to work as well as what is already known of these super earths.
     Some of the ways these scientists were able to determine that plate tectonics were possible is through a variety of physics concepts (some are way too complex for a person who has not taken physics, but if you have you'll understand completely, if not try your best like I did!) and basic properties of gravity, water, and plate thickness. Because we do not have complex information about the thickness of plates on these planets yet, these are simply assumptions based on the knowledge we have of their type of planet, gravity, etc. The scientists who worked on this paper determined that, because the plates are thin enough to subduct and the gravity of the planet would cause that to happen, there must be plate tectonics. This is crazy and interesting all at the same time because it brings us closer and closer to this idea that planets outside of our solar system may give us hope for continuing life on earth (part 2). The paper is really an interesting read and has a good set of data to back it up. Take a look!
http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1086/524012/pdf
(image from pbs.org)

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