On the Spin States of Habitable Zone Exoplanets Around M Dwarfs: The Effect of a Near-Resonant Companion
Vinson et al
One longstanding problem for the potential habitability of planets within M dwarf systems is their likelihood to be tidally locked in a synchronously rotating spin state. This problem thus far has largely been addressed only by considering two objects: the star and the planet itself. However, many systems have been found to harbor multiple planets, with some in or very near to mean-motion resonances. The presence of a planetary companion near a mean-motion resonance can induce oscillatory variations in the mean-motion of the planet, which we demonstrate can have significant effects on the spin-state of an otherwise synchronously rotating planet. In particular, we find that a planetary companion near a mean-motion resonance can excite the spin states of planets in the habitable zone of small, cool stars, pushing otherwise synchronously rotating planets into higher amplitude librations of the spin state, or even complete circulation resulting in effective stellar days with full surface coverage on the order of years or decades. This increase in illuminated area can have potentially dramatic influences on climate, and thus on habitability. We also find that the resultant spin state can be very sensitive to initial conditions due to the chaotic nature of the spin state at early times within certain regimes. We apply our model to two hypothetical planetary systems inspired by the K00255 and TRAPPIST-1 systems, which both have Earth-sized planets in mean-motion resonances orbiting cool stars.