Tidal heating of exomoons may play a key role in their habitability, since the elevated temperature can melt the ice on the body even without significant solar radiation. The possibility of life has been intensely studied on solar system moons such as Europa or Enceladus where the surface ice layer covers a tidally heated water ocean. Tidal forces may be even stronger in extrasolar systems, depending on the properties of the moon and its orbit. To study the tidally heated surface temperature of exomoons, we used a viscoelastic model for the first time. This model is more realistic than the widely used, so-called fixed Q models because it takes into account the temperature dependence of the tidal heat flux and the melting of the inner material. Using this model, we introduced the circumplanetary Tidal Temperate Zone (TTZ), which strongly depends on the orbital period of the moon and less on its radius. We compared the results with the fixed Q model and investigated the statistical volume of the TTZ using both models. We have found that the viscoelastic model predicts 2.8 times more exomoons in the TTZ with orbital periods between 0.1 and 3.5 days than the fixed Q model for plausible distributions of physical and orbital parameters. The viscoelastic model provides more promising results in terms of habitability because the inner melting of the body moderates the surface temperature, acting like a thermostat.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science
- planets and satellites: general