Thin-Shell Exoplanets Like Eggshells

Yumurta-kabuğu-gibi-ince-kabuklu-öte-gezegenlerScientists have discovered 3 new exoplanets with eggshell-like thin and fragile shells. There are no mountains and no shifting of continents in the thin crust of these planets. So, are the freaking planets conducive to life? To date, astronomers have found 4,000 exoplanets orbiting other stars. In our 25 years of chasing exoplanets, we’ve learned that even rocky planets can be very different from our Earth. For example, exoplanets codenamed TOI-1235 b, HD 136352 b, and L 168-9 b are also rocky. However, their shells are so thin that they do not resemble the Earth at all. On the other hand, in order to find life in space, we need to learn to what extent rocky planets other than Earth are suitable for life. So, how do cracked planets with thin shells such as eggshells form and how do they work?

Fractured planets and stonyglobe

Tashosphere is the outermost solid layer of a rocky planet. The upper part of this is what we call the earth’s crust, which includes landforms such as mountains and seas. The earth’s crust is hard but still brittle. Earthquakes occur when the earth’s crust cracks due to continents shifting and volcanic eruptions. As the temperature rises below this on Earth, there is the increasingly fluid mantle layer and below it the outer core. All rocky planets are generally similar to each other and their internal structure conforms to the diagram I have described.

However, for a planet to resemble Earth is as if both a main battle tank and a milkman are in the same category as a motor land vehicle. Other than that, there is no similarity between a tank and a motorcycle. As I explained in the article How the Earth’s crust was formed, the shifting of the continents allows life to emerge on a planet. Thus, the internal heat of the planet warms its surface, and the water vapor that will form the oceans rises to the surface through volcanoes. The atmosphere is refreshed by underground gases, and the part of the earth’s crust that sinks underground carries the polluted water with it, working like the planet’s ventilation system.

However, these depend on a very delicate balance. Earth’s crust is too thin or too thick, so if it’s too hot or too cold, the continents won’t slide. At that time, volcanic activities suitable for life are not seen. So, could fragile exoplanets with thin crusts be suitable for life?

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Eggshell and crust of the earth

Now you will say, but teacher, since we have discovered 4000 exoplanets so far, let’s take pictures of them. Let’s see which one is not suitable for life, although it is very thin crusted and rocky. If only it were that easy! Unfortunately, exoplanets are so far away that we cannot see the earth’s crust. For this reason, astronomers have to deduce a planet’s fitness for life from the properties that it can measure. These properties are the planet’s mass, diameter, age, distance from the star, and rotational speed. In fact, it’s astonishing that scientists can even tell from so few features whether planets are Earth-like or not. Of course, we owe this to the universal laws of physics that apply everywhere.

Scientists who wrote the article I cited below made thousands of computer simulations to overcome the problem of planets that cannot be seen from afar. In the light of what we know, they tried to understand what the thin crusted planets looked like and their landforms. Specifically, they looked at how rocks on Earth behave at different temperatures and pressures.

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Eggshell disguised planets

As a result, they found that exoplanet mass, surface temperature, and age of the stony sphere affect the hardness and fragility of the Earth’s crust. For example, they found that planets that were small or cold because they were far from the sun cooled rapidly in the earth’s crust. As with Mars, the cores of planets that are both far from the sun and smaller than the sun cooled rapidly and solidified, stopping the production of the magnetic field that protects the atmosphere.Thick-shelled planets had common features, and thin-shelled worlds had similarities. For one thing, these were planets that were larger and heavier than Earth.

In this way, it not only preserved its inner heat with its thick layers, but also remained warm with the gravity provided by its large mass. The large and heavy cores of the great worlds were collapsing under their own weight, producing more heat. This made the crust of the earth warm and thin. When I say thin, this prevents or delays the cooling of the earth’s crust and forming a hard crust. On the other hand, as I explained in the video how radioactive elements in the earth’s crust gave birth to life, crustal temperature does not necessarily increase with gravitational compression. If a planet has high levels of uranium and thorium, these radioactive elements also generate enough heat to melt the crust. Hot crust also prevents oceans from forming.

This brings us to the planet Venus. Has Venus ever had oceans as I explained in the video, If a planet is hot, water vapor from volcanoes will never make it rain. Thus, the surface of the planets is not covered by oceans. The situation of Venus is more interesting than Mars in this respect. Once close to the Sun, it is hot. The latter used to contain large amounts of water vapor, and water vapor is a greenhouse gas 60 percent more potent than carbon dioxide. In short, Venus became a hellish world not only because it was close to the Sun, but also because of its thick atmosphere. However, the real surprise is something else:

Eggshell and Venus

The crust of Venus is very thin for the diameter of the planet and perhaps more volcanic than Earth. Since the thick carbon dioxide atmosphere also keeps the heat, the earth’s crust has never solidified into a thick layer like on Earth. In short, Venus is the only known egg-shell fragile planet in the Solar System. As a result, the Earth, as a larger and heavier planet, generates more heat. Venus, on the other hand, melts faster at relatively high temperatures, as it contains slightly lighter elements. These factors worked against Venus. So, are there really thin-shelled planets in our galaxy?

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An afterword for the eggshell

Of course! Scientists have discovered three egg-shell exoplanets named TOI-1235 b, HD 136352 b and L 168-9 b. Venus is thin-shelled, but these are real soft-boiled egg worlds with super-thin shells next to Venus; because its crust is thinner than 5 km. Imagine that some parts of the Atlantic are “deeper” than their crust! However, it is difficult to see earthquakes as severe as Earth on thin crusted planets. After all, the earth’s crust is too thin and soft. These planets may not be suitable for Earth-like life. On the other hand, they can host bacteria that are resistant to harsh conditions, such as extremophiles living underground in volcanic layers.

Moreover, silicon-based creatures that are resistant to heat, not carbon-based, can live on planets with thin crusts. However, if you think that egg-shelled planets are the only interesting exoplanet category in the universe, you are wrong. You can now read KELT 9b and Kepler 70b, the pupils of the planets with one side always facing the sun, and the hottest planets in the universe. Which is correct: You can ask Mini Neptune or Super Earth and examine hypersonic planets raining liquid glass from the sky.

You can examine how mantle bubbles shift continents and there are 40 km high mountains under the earth’s crust by being unable to slow down. If you’re feeling brave, you may wonder how common Earth-like planets are in the universe and how to search for exoplanets suitable for life. See you in the next article, stay with science and health. 😊

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1The Effects of Planetary and Stellar Parameters on Brittle Lithospheric Thickness

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