This question is somewhat related to my earlier question How are the compositional components of exoplanet atmospheres differentiated?, but this about a specific surface-atmospheric phenomena - volcanism.

Using our solar system as a rough analogue (where asides from Earth, Venus, Io and Triton have active volcanism, probably more), volcanism should be not uncommon amongst exoplanets given the right conditions. Obviously, we could probably only detect either the massive shield, plateau volcanism, or prolonged volcanism from multiple vents.

What observational constraints are there in detecting the presence of volcanism on exoplanets?


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Exoplanets are too far away to send satellites or to image them directly. So there is no way to go there and say: there it is a volcano. My guess is that we have to guess from what we know working in the solar system. And we might just get a statistical probability that the planet is active.

I would say that there are two cases:

  1. If the planet is rocky and near enough to the star or a giant planet, you might expect volcanism caused by tidal effects, similarly to what happen on Jupiter's Io moon. In few words: the gravitational force of the nearby big planet/star deform the planet and this deformations are converted to heat due to friction. If the gravitational forces are large enough, you can end up having volcanism

  2. If you are able to measure the spectral lines in the planet atmosphere you could try to identify signatures of gas or dust typically associated with volcanic activity. I don't know what you would want to look for, but my guess is that you want to search mostly in the infrared.


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