Tectonic activities are movements and distortions in a planet’s crust. Geologists on Earth study these activities to assess the evolution and future condition of the landmasses. Lava eruption, earthquakes, continental drift — all of these come under tectonic activities. While the study is exhaustively studied on our planet, it’s rare to know more about them elsewhere in the universe. But a team of astronomers believe they have evidence of tectonic activities on an exoplanet outside our solar system.
Exoplanet LHS 3844b has been under astronomers’ radar since 2019 when it was first suggested that the surface was covered by dark lava rock. New evidence suggests that there might even be current tectonic activity on the planet. Computer simulations based on observation of the planet suggest activity similar to that of Earth. The exoplanet is larger than Earth and based on primary observations, doesn’t seem to have any atmosphere.
This means, nearly half of the surface is constantly subjected to direct rays of the sun, with temperatures reaching 800 degreesCelsius (daytime). On the opposite side, at night time, the temperature can fall to -250 degreesCelsius.
Tobias Meier, currently studying the planet, believes this stark temperature difference could affect material flow in the planet’s interior. In the simulations created by the team, there is possibly only upwards on one side of the planet, whereas the other side could have only a downward flow. The team calls this “hemisphere-scale flow of subsurface material.”
“On whichever side of the planet the material flows upwards, one would expect a large amount of volcanism on that particular side,” said Geophysicist Dan Bower, from the University of Bern.
In some of the simulations, the prospect was reversed. Such a concept is not noted on Earth except for select locations like Hawaii. Science Alert explains the exoplanet’s activity on account of the temperature. Cooler rocks are immobile whereas the warmer ones can move. As a result, one whole side could be completely covered with volcanic activity.
However, this is based on simulations. Meier suggests an in-depth study of the planet is required for further studies.