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Atmospheric dynamics of a near tidally locked Earth-sized planet

Abstract

The discovery and characterization of Earth-sized planets that are in, or near, a tidally locked state are of crucial importance to understanding terrestrial planet evolution. For this purpose Venus is a clear analogue. Exoplanetary science lies at the threshold of characterizing hundreds of terrestrial planetary atmospheres, thereby providing a statistical sample far greater than the limited inventory of terrestrial planetary atmospheres within the Solar System. However, the model-based approach for characterizing exoplanet atmospheres relies on Solar System data, resulting in our limited inventory being both foundational and critical atmospheric laboratories. Present terrestrial exoplanet demographics are heavily biased toward short-period planets, many of which are expected to be tidally locked, and also potentially runaway greenhouse candidates, similar to Venus. Here we describe the rise in the terrestrial exoplanet population and the study of tidal locking in climate simulations. These exoplanet studies are placed within the context of Venus, a local example of an Earth-sized, asynchronous rotator that is near the tidal locking limit. We describe the recent lessons learned regarding the dynamics of the Venusian atmosphere and how these lessons pertain to the evolution of our sibling planet. We discuss their implications for exoplanet atmospheres, and outline the need for a full characterization of the Venusian climate to achieve a full and robust interpretation of terrestrial planetary atmospheres.

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Fig. 1: Histogram of the radius distribution for the known exoplanet population.
Fig. 2: The HZ boundaries and tidal locking distance as a function of stellar effective temperature and stellar flux received by the planet.
Fig. 3: A Robinson projection of the results from a ROCKE-3D simulation for the exoVenus candidate Kepler-1649b73, showing the surface temperature and a Venus topography overlay.
Fig. 4: Akatsuki data showing the brightness temperature and UV brightness of the Venusian disk.
Fig. 5: Spectra of Earth, Venus and Mars in the visible to NIR wavelength range.
Fig. 6: Simulation of a direct imaging observation of Venus.

Data availability

Figure 1 used data from the NASA Exoplanet Archive, available here: https://exoplanetarchive.ipac.caltech.edu/. Figure 3 used output data from ROCKE-3D simulations in netCDF format73. Figure 6 used data from the Akatsuki Science Data Archive, available here: https://darts.isas.jaxa.jp/planet/project/akatsuki/. The data from Figs. 1, 3 and 6 are available here: http://stephenkane.net/tidalvenus/

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Acknowledgements

This research has made use of the NASA Exoplanet Archive, which is operated by the California Institute of Technology under contract with NASA within the Exoplanet Exploration Program. The results reported herein benefited from collaborations and/or information exchange under NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) research coordination network, which is sponsored by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

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Kane, S.R. Atmospheric dynamics of a near tidally locked Earth-sized planet. Nat Astron 6, 420–427 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-022-01626-x

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