Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres

, Volume 41, Issue 6, pp 539–543

Habitability of Extrasolar Planets and Tidal Spin Evolution

Exoplanets and Habitability


Stellar radiation has conservatively been used as the key constraint to planetary habitability. We review here the effects of tides, exerted by the host star on the planet, on the evolution of the planetary spin. Tides initially drive the rotation period and the orientation of the rotation axis into an equilibrium state but do not necessarily lead to synchronous rotation. As tides also circularize the orbit, eventually the rotation period does equal the orbital period and one hemisphere will be permanently irradiated by the star. Furthermore, the rotational axis will become perpendicular to the orbit, i.e. the planetary surface will not experience seasonal variations of the insolation. We illustrate here how tides alter the spins of planets in the traditional habitable zone. As an example, we show that, neglecting perturbations due to other companions, the Super-Earth Gl581d performs two rotations per orbit and that any primordial obliquity has been eroded.


Habitability Orbital dynamics Tidal processes Habitable zone Gl581d 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP)PotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Hamburger Sternwarte, GrK 1351 “Extrasolar Planets and their Host Stars”HamburgGermany
  3. 3.Department of AstronomyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  4. 4.Virtual Planetary LaboratorySeattleUSA
  5. 5.École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, CRAL (CNRS)Université LyonLyon Cedex 07France

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