Super-Earths - Characteristics


Due to the larger mass of super-Earths, their physical characteristics differ from Earth's. A study on Gliese 876 d by a team around Diana Valencia revealed that it would be possible to infer from a radius measured by the transit method of detecting planets and the mass of the relevant planet what the structural composition of a relevant super-Earth is. For Gliese 876, calculations range from 9,200 km (1.4 Earth radii) for a rocky planet and very large iron core to 12,500 km (2.0 Earth radii) for a watery and icy planet. Within this range of radii the super-Earth Gliese 876 d would have a surface gravity between 1.9g and 3.3g (19 and 32 m/s²).

Further theoretical work by Valencia and others suggests that super-Earths would be more geologically active than Earth, with more vigorous plate tectonics due to thinner plates under more stress. In fact, their models suggested that Earth was itself a "borderline" case, just barely large enough to sustain plate tectonics. However, other studies determine that strong convection currents in the mantle acting on strong gravity would make the crust stronger and thus inhibit plate tectonics. The planet's surface would be too strong for the forces of magma to break the crust into plates.

Additional studies, conducted with lasers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and at the OMEGA laboratory at the University of Rochester show that the magnesium-silicate internal regions of the planet would undergo phase changes under the immense pressures and temperatures of a super-Earth planet, and that the different phases of this liquid magnesium silicate would separate into layers.

Read more about this topic:  Super-Earths

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