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Paper: Super-Earths’ Evolution: Towards Habitability
Volume: 398, Extreme Solar Systems
Page: 513
Authors: Valencia, D.; O’Connell, R.J.; Sasselov, D.D.
Abstract: In the last two years, five super-Earths (planets with masses between 1-10 M) have been discovered and many more will follow with CoRoT, Kepler and MEarth projects. Some super-Earths may conveniently orbit in the ’habitable’ zone but only their thermo-chemical evolution will determine if, in fact, they are habitable. The tectonic and thermal evolution will determine the planet’s surface conditions. In turn, their thermal evolution is highly influenced by the mode of convection. Earth is the only planet in the Solar System with plate tectonics and this mode of convection, owing to its connection to geochemical cycles, has been associated with the existence of life on our planet. We show that super-Earths should also exhibit plate tectonics. Massive terrestrial planets will have larger convective driving forces that can overcome lithospheric resistance to deformation, and thinner lithospheres that are therefore weaker. These effects contribute favorably to the subduction of the lithosphere, an essential component of plate tectonics. Super-Earths are good candidates in the search for habitable worlds.
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