Geeking Science: Walking on Eggshells

Exoplanets continue to be discovered and the scientists gather what little information is available from our distant observation point: closeness to its star, size, …. oh, maybe atmosphere if the light bounces right. We can infer temperature, composition, and minerals available.  Year length and day cycle need just a bit of number crunching.

Then scientist group the planet into something that matches our system of planets – the rocky inner, the gas giants, ice rocks, and maybe, terrestrial in the life zone. But in the infinite possibilities of the universe, will every planet be a “Jupiter” or “Venus”?

Using computer modeling, other possibilities are coming to light. One is eggshell planets. The thin lithosphere means no plate tectonics, which I was surprised to learn meant uninhabitable because one of the job of plate tectonics is to control the minerals related to controlling carbon.

You know the stuff humanity is trying to control to rein in climate change.

The eggshell planets, according to theory, will have runaway greenhouse heating because of the lack of recycling crust. Other peculiarities include a crust that might bow and dip with heat cycles of the lower levels, but not create mountains or valleys.

As a science fiction writer, I thinking about how would industries take advantage of these planets? Could ships hide in the unique crust features? Scientists suspect life as we know it can’t live there, but what other options might play out?

The fact is there are over a dozen suspected planetary types. As writers, we don’t need to limit ourselves to the standard four.

Choi, Charles Q. “Strange ‘eggshell’ exoplanets may have ultra-smooth surface.” 2021 November 29. – Last viewed 1/12/2022.

Gough, Evan. “Eggshell Planets Have a Thin Brittle Crust and No Mountains or Tectonics.” 2021 November 18. Universe Today. – Last viewed 1/12/2022.

Unveiled. “Why Scientists Are Studying Unique Eggshell Planets.” 2022 January 5. – Last viewed 1/12/2022.