Tidal heating of terrestrial extrasolar planets and implications for their habitability

Brian Jackson, Rory Barnes, Richard Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


The tidal heating of hypothetical rocky (or terrestrial) extrasolar planets spans a wide range of values depending on stellar masses and initial orbits. Tidal heating may be sufficiently large (in many cases, in excess of radiogenic heating) and long-lived to drive plate tectonics, similar to the Earth's, which may enhance the planet's habitability. In other cases, excessive tidal heating may result in Io-like planets with violent volcanism, probably rendering them unsuitable for life. On water-rich planets, tidal heating may generate subsurface oceans analogous to Europa's with similar prospects for habitability. Tidal heating may enhance the outgassing of volatiles, contributing to the formation and replenishment of a planet's atmosphere. To address these issues, we model the tidal heating and evolution of hypothetical extrasolar terrestrial planets. The results presented here constrain the orbital and physical properties required for planets to be habitable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-245
Number of pages9
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • Astrobiology
  • Celestial mechanics
  • Planetary systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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