The Equilibrium Temperature of Planets in Elliptical Orbits [EPA]

There exists a positive correlation between orbital eccentricity and the average stellar flux that planets receive from their parent star. Often, though, it is assumed that the average equilibrium temperature would correspondingly increase with eccentricity. Here we test this assumption by calculating and comparing analytic solutions for both the spatial and temporal averages of orbital distance, stellar flux, and equilibrium temperature. Our solutions show that the average equilibrium temperature of a planet, with a constant albedo, slowly decreases with eccentricity until converging to a value 90% that of a circular orbit. This might be the case for many types of planets (e.g., hot-jupiters); however, the actual equilibrium and surface temperature of planets also depend on orbital variations of albedo and greenhouse. Our results also have implications in understanding the climate, habitability and the occurrence of potential Earth-like planets. For instance, it helps explain why the limits of the habitable zone for planets in highly elliptical orbits are wider than expected from the mean flux approximation, as shown by climate models.

Read this paper on arXiv…

A. Mendez and E. Rivera-Valentin
Fri, 24 Feb 17

Comments: 13 pages, 3 figures, 2 tables. ApJL, 837, L1