Whenever I think of a tidally locked planet, like say Mercury, the only image that comes to mind is one that is barren of all life. You see for tidally locked systems the face of the smaller body is always pointing towards the larger one, like our Moon is towards Earth. For planets and suns this means that the surface of the tidally locked planet would typically turn into an inferno with the other side becoming a frigid wasteland, both devoid of any kind of life. However new research shows that these planets might not be the lifeless rocks we once thought them to be and, in fact, they could be far more Earthlike than we previously thought.
Scientists have long theorized that planets of this nature could potentially harbour a habitable band around their terminator, a tenuous strip that exists between the freezing depths of the cold side and the furnace of the hot side. Such a planet wouldn’t have the day/night cycles that we’re accustomed to however and it would be likely that any life that evolved there would have adapted to the permanent daylight. There’d also be some pretty extreme winds to contend with as well due to the massive differences in temperature although how severe they were would be heavily dependent on the thickness of the atmosphere. Still it’s possible that that little band could harbor all sorts of life, despite the conditions that bookended its environment.
However there’s another theory that states that these kinds of planets might not be the one sided hotbeds that we initially thought them to be. Instead of being fully tidally locked with their parent star planets like this might actually still rotate thanks to the heavy winds that would whip across their surface. These winds would push against the planets surface, giving it enough rotation to overcome the tidal locking caused by the parent star’s gravity. There’s actually an example of this within our own solar system: Venus which by all rights should be tidally locked to our Sun. However it’s not although it’s extremely long days and retrograde rotation (it spins the opposite way to every other planet) hints at the fact that its rotation is caused by forces that a different to that from every other planet.
Counterintuitively it seems that Venus’ extremely thick atmosphere might be working against it in this regard as the modelling done shows that planets with thinner atmospheres would actually experience a higher rotational rate. This means that an Earthlike planet that should be tidally locked would likely not be and the resulting motion would be enough to make the majority of the planet habitable. In turn this would mean that many of the supposedly tidally locked planets we’ve discovered could actually turn out to be habitable candidates.
Whilst these are just beautiful models for now they can hopefully drive the requirements for future craft and observatories here on Earth that will be able to look for the signatures of these kinds of planets. Considering that our detection methods are currently skewed towards detecting planets that are close to their parent stars this will mean a much greater hit rate for habitable candidates, providing a wealth of data to validate against. Whether we’ll be able to get some direct observations of such planets within the next century or more is a question we won’t likely have an answer to soon, but hopefully one day we will.
There was only a dim glow peeking through the curtains but it was lacking that distinct orange tint to it that I’d grown to expect. Throwing them back revealed a threatening looking sky with the overcast clouds merging into the smog in an eerily smooth gradient. It seems that the cross country flight had done some magic on our body clocks and we were up early again giving us some time to plan for the day ahead. We’d planned to go to Universal Studios today and decided to stick with that plan even with the foreboding weather. I also made a quick check to make sure that the server had come good after Danne kicked it over for me, thankful that it came around. I uploaded the 3 posts I had sitting in my queue before heading off, taking our laundry with us so we could get it done on the way home.
Dialling in the address into the GPS we drove the 10 miles to North Hollywood arriving into a strangely quiet strip of shops. We started walking around looking for somewhere to have breakfast and found a decent cafe about halfway down. The weather had was holding up and without my Internet connection on my phone working (again!) we decided to just go ahead and go into the park, figuring that it would could still visit most of the park even if it was pouring with rain.
There were a few people at the entrance to Universal Studios but it still felt almost deserted. It is the off season but that didn’t seem to have a damper on the numbers when we were at Dinseyland so we figured we had just gotten lucky. We made our way through one of the exhibits in the top lot before taking the multiple escalators to the bottom lot which was even more deserted than the top. That worked in our favour though with virtually no line for all the rides down there, letting us zip through the entire section in about half an hour. The rides were pretty good with their scale being extremely impressive. I can’t remember the last time I rode a rollercoaster that was entirely indoors (I think it might’ve been space mountain in Disneyworld in Tokyo where I hit my hand on a low flying pole).
After that we headed back up to the top lot to see some of the other shows they had going on. There were no less than 3 3D movies with all sorts of various augmentations. The most extravagant one was the Terminator with oodles of pyrotechnics and a cast of 3 people jumping in and out of various places all over the place. There were also a couple live shows that we saw the best of which was the Waterworld one. Now I’ll be honest here I was only going to go to it initially because there was a fated summer holiday where my brother and I watched that movie nearly every day. However the show itself was quite amazing with a smattering of watercraft, acrobatics and explosions all over the place. After we got out our last show at around 4:30pm everything was winding down so we headed out to find ourselves some early dinner before heading out to see a movie.
We found this amazing little Japanese place just up from where we had had lunch earlier. I ordered the tonkatsu with a Japanese beer I had never seen before: Echigo. We had just less than an hour so I was glad when our meal was served quickly and even happier still when it was quite good, especially for the price. Satisfied with our meal we went to see our movie for the night, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1. 2 and a half hours later we emerged from the movie, both happy with the experience. I’d recommend the movie to anyone who’s enjoyed the previous releases in this particular series, I won’t comment on those who’ve read the books however (I haven’t).
Afterwards I found us a coin operated laundry not too far from we were so we headed over there to get ourselves some clean clothes to wear. After loading up the machine we sat down to watch what they had on the TVs around the place, mostly bad reality TV shows and overdone mexican dramas. About an hour later we were done and out of there, driving back through the rain that had finally started to come down. We got back to the hotel safely and flopped down on our bed, weary from the long day we had had. I’m not sure what we’ll be doing tomorrow but it will either be a visit to Legoland or back to Disneyland but really I could easily spend a day off my feet to let them rest. I don’t think I’ve walked less than 8KMs per day over the past 2 weeks.