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20Aug/1132

Inevitability of Plate Tectonics on Super-Earths

I thought this was interesting.

The recent discovery of super-Earths (masses less or equal to 10 earth-masses) has initiated a discussion about conditions for habitable worlds. Among these is the mode of convection, which influences a planet's thermal evolution and surface conditions. On Earth, plate tectonics has been proposed as a necessary condition for life. Here we show, that super-Earths will also have plate tectonics. We demonstrate that as planetary mass increases, the shear stress available to overcome resistance to plate motion increases while the plate thickness decreases, thereby enhancing plate weakness. These effects contribute favorably to the subduction of the lithosphere, an essential component of plate tectonics. Moreover, uncertainties in achieving plate tectonics in the one earth-mass regime disappear as mass increases: super-Earths, even if dry, will exhibit plate tectonic behaviour.

Can't wait until we build a hypertelescope to see if the Super-Earths out there are rock or gas.

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  2. I wonder how long it’ll take for good ol’ Earth to secure-erase the continents.

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