Tidal heating of extrasolar planets

Brian Jackson, Richard Greenberg, Rory Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Extrasolar planets close to their host stars have likely undergone significant tidal evolution since the time of their formation. Tides probably dominated their orbital evolution once the dust and gas cleared away, and as the orbits evolved there was substantial tidal heating within the planets. The tidal heating history of each planet may have contributed significantly to the thermal budget governing the planet's physical properties, including its radius, which in many cases may be measured by observing transit events. Typically, tidal heating increases as a planet moves inward toward its star and then decreases as its orbit circularizes. Here we compute the plausible heating histories for several planets with measured radii, using the same tidal parameters for the star and planet that have been shown to reconcile the eccentricity distribution of close-in planets with other extrasolar planets. Several planets are discussed, including, for example, HD 209458b, which may have undergone substantial tidal heating during the past billion years, perhaps enough to explain its large measured radius. Our models also show that GJ 876d may have experienced tremendous heating and is probably not a solid, rocky planet. Theoretical models should include the role of tidal heating, which is large but time-varying.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1631-1638
Number of pages8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 10 2008


  • Celestial mechanics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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