Tidal heating on some exoplanets may leave them waterless

Venus as photographed by the Pioneer Venus Orbiter spacecraft in 1978. Some exoplanets may suffer a similar fate as this scorched world. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech

As the number of exoplanets being discovered continues to increase dramatically, a growing number are now being found which orbit within their stars’ habitable zones. For smaller, rocky worlds, this makes it more likely that some of them could harbour life of some kind, as this is the region where temperatures (albeit depending on other factors as well) can allow liquid water to exist on their surfaces. But there is another factor which may prevent some of them from being habitable after all – tidal heating, caused by the gravitational pull of one star, planet or moon on another; this effect which creates tides on Earth’s oceans can also create heat inside a planet or moon…

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