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I've created a small planet, about 90% the size of Earth, which orbits a pair of twin dwarf stars and is Earth-like in many respects. This planet's atmosphere is highly electrified, with lightning storms occurring nearly every night.

In fact, this planet's equivalent to plants use electricity to gain energy instead of light, using a process called electrosynthesis (an analogue to photosynthesis). What could possibly have caused my planet to become so intensely electronical?

Please include any details that might be pertinent, any at all, including but not limited to:

  • What kind of atmospheric composition could support such a highly electrical world?
  • Anything about the planet's situation in its planetary system that might be relevant.
  • What kind of temperatures, air pressures and other weather-related factors could contribute to the electricity?
  • How about static electricity? Is the planet filled to the brim with balloons and socks?

Any scientifically plausible answers are very much appreciated.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is perhaps a tangential/nitpicky comment, but what type of stars are they? Technically, most stars on the main sequence (including the Sun!) are known as dwarf stars, to differentiate them from, say, sub-giants, giants, etc. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Nov 24 '15 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ They would have to be the kind of stars that could engage in a binary orbit around each other (I don't know, maybe that's all of them XD), and they would have to be warm enough that the environment on the planet would approximate that of Earth (maybe a little warmer). $\endgroup$ – IJoinedCozIcan Nov 24 '15 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, that's actually all stars. :-) The one important thing, then, are the orbits: How far apart are the stars, and what's the planet's orbital radius (assuming it's pretty circular, with a low eccentricity)? $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Nov 24 '15 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ The stars are close enough together that their orbits around each other don't cause too much variation in the seasons (i.e: ultra-hot followed directly by ultra-cold, just a slight amount more variation than Earth). To tell you the truth, you're going to have to tell me the answers to your own questions, as I know shamefully little about astronomy! $\endgroup$ – IJoinedCozIcan Nov 24 '15 at 22:49
  • $\begingroup$ Constant thunderstorms will likely result in constant rain as well, right? Check out this question for some ideas on how to get the latter, it will provide ideas on how to get the former. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Nov 25 '15 at 0:03
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While not quite the same as constant lightning storms, you should consider that the moon Io passes through Jupiter's magnetic field and acts much like the armature in a dynamo, generating a "flux tube" which produces two trillion watts of electrical energy. I think that most biological functions which are powered by electrosynthesis will find this to be a satisfying arrangement.

Flux tube

For this to work in your setup, the planet would have to pass through the magnetic field of one or both of the stars to generate the flux tube and cause the electrical energy to reach the planet.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wow, so many wonderful answers! Thank you all, you've been of great help. I will take all of these into consideration. $\endgroup$ – IJoinedCozIcan Nov 25 '15 at 15:52
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Our universe is large enough that lots of weird things can happen. Believe it or not, we've found quite a few of them on exoplanets. This article about a paper on lightning on exoplanets (Bailey et al. (2014)) talks a bit about lightning in brown dwarfs and planetary atmospheres.

The point of the paper is that certain mineral grains in clouds can make lightning strikes more prevalent. Studies (on Earth) have also shown that volcanic plumes can produce copious amounts of lightning. Therefore, we can extend these theories a bit. I propose a planet with near-constant volcanic activity in at least one part of the globe, as well as strong winds in atmosphere that can move grains from plumes around quickly. If the plumes are strong enough, then perhaps the entire atmosphere could be effected enough to measurably increase the amount of lightning.

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