Astronomers have carefully studied an exoplanet called LHS 3844b for many years. In 2019, researchers announced that they believed the planet was covered in dark lava rock. Researchers studying the exoplanet have now made another exciting discovery with evidence for the first time of tectonic activity on another planet.
Evidence suggesting that LHS 3844b may have tectonic activity comes from a set of advanced simulations based on observations of the planet. While the exoplanet and Earth may have tectonic activity in common, the exoplanet is slightly larger than Earth and does not appear to have an atmosphere. Half of the exoplanet is permanently exposed to the sun, and surface temperatures are said to be around 800 degrees Celsius during the day.
On the side of the planet permanently engulfed in the night, the temperature would be around -250 degrees Celsius. Researcher Tobias Meier said researchers believe the severe temperature difference between the day and night sides of the planet could affect the flow of matter inside the planet. Based on observations of the phase curve of the planet’s luminosity and possible temperatures and a computer model simulating various tectonic materials and possible heat sources, researchers now believe that a flow at the scale of l hemisphere of underground materials occurs.
The majority of the simulations conducted by the researchers only show an upward flow on one side of the planet and a downward flow on the other side of the planet. However, in some simulations this was reversed, which does not correspond to tectonic movements on Earth.
The data discovered by the researchers suggests that LHS 3844b may have an entire hemisphere covered in volcanoes. In contrast, the other side has virtually no volcanic activity due to the massive temperature differences around the planet. Scientists plan to study LHS 3844b more in depth in the future, as more powerful telescopes come online around the world.