In the latest study, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, scientists are exploring the mechanisms behind the formation of twin planets. These unique worlds, consisting of two giant planetary bodies orbiting each other, can form due to tidal heating (tidal dissipation).
The researchers note that understanding the processes behind the formation of such planets is fundamental to deciphering the evolution and possible existence of life in the Universe.
Lead author of the study, Dr Cecilia Lazzoni from the University of Exeter, said: “Binary planets, although absent from the solar system, may represent an entirely new type of world, capable of supporting life even far from their star, using energy supplied by the giant planets.”
The study relies heavily on the Pluto-Charon system, which is analogous to a dwarf planet. Charon is a moon of Pluto and is half the diameter and one-eighth the mass of Pluto, making it the largest moon in the solar system compared to its parent body.
This feature, together with other unique features of the system, makes it a valuable object for studying the formation of double planets.
The researchers ran a series of computer simulations using improved code based on previous studies of planet formation. They found that taking into account tidal dissipation helps explain the possibility of the formation of double planets in systems consisting of several giant planets.
This result will help to better understand the emergence and evolution of exoplanets and their systems.
Dr Lazzoni emphasizes: “The study is inspired by the discovery of the potential double planet DH Tau Bb and other similar objects such as Kepler 1625 bi and Kepler 1708 bi. The results of our work will help scientists better understand the conditions necessary to support life outside the solar system.”
With the emergence of new data on moons potentially suitable for life, such as Europa, Enceladus and Titan, interest in the study of double planets is gaining greater relevance.
This research opens new perspectives in the search for life beyond the solar system by focusing on the unique shapes of planetary systems and their possible habitability.