Using space- and ground-based telescopes, scientists have now identified numerous terrestrial planets around distant stars. However, many of these planets are in solar systems that are very different to our own, and have complex orbital dynamics. Determining conditions at the surface of these planets, and thereby their habitability, requires understanding latitudinally dependent flux incident a the top of their atmospheres. Two things that affect this flux are orbital eccentricity and obliquity. A new study delves into the issue of flux variation in the context of four known multi-planet systems. Implications of the simulations on climate models for terrestrial planets are discussed, as well as signatures of planetary obliquity that could be detectable with today’s instruments.

The study, “Obliquity and Eccentricity Constraints for Terrestrial Exoplanets,” was published in The Astronomical Journal. The work was supported by the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS). NExSS is a NASA research coordination network supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Program. This program element is shared between NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) and the Astrophysics Division.