Aims. We use the super Earth 55 Cnc e as a case study to address an observable effect of tidal heating. This transiting short-period planet belongs to a compact multiple system with massive planets. We investigate whether planet-planet interactions can force the eccentricity of this planet to a level affecting the eclipse depth observed with Spitzer. Methods. Using the constant time lag tidal model, we first calculate the observed planet flux as a function of albedo and eccentricity, for different tidal dissipation constants and for two extreme cases: a planet with no heat redistribution and a planet with full heat redistribution. We derive the values of albedo and eccentricity that match the observed transit depth. We then perform N-body simulations of the planetary system including tides and general relativity to follow the evolution of the eccentricity of planet e. We compare the range of eccentricities given by the simulations with the eccentricities required to alter the eclipse depth. Results. Using our nominal value for the dissipation constant and the most recent estimates of the orbital elements and masses of the 55 Cnc planets, we find that the eccentricity of planet e can be large enough to contribute at a measurable level to the thermal emission measured with Spitzer. This affects the constraints on the albedo of the planet, which can be as high as 0.9 (instead of 0.55 when ignoring tidal heating). We also derive a maximum value for the eccentricity of planet e directly from the eclipse depth: e < 0.015 assuming Earth's dissipation constant. Conclusions. Transiting exoplanets in multiple planet systems - like 55 Cancri - are exceptional targets for testing tidal models because their tidal luminosity may be observable. Future multi-wavelengths observations of eclipse depth and phase curves (for instance with EChO and JWST) should allow us to better resolve the temperature map of these planets and break the degeneracy between albedo and tidal heating that remains for single band observations. In addition, an accurate determination of the eccentricity will make it possible to constrain the dissipation rate of the planet and to probe its internal structure.
- Planet-star interactions
- Planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability
- Planets and satellites: fundamental parameters