Huge diamond planet found, twice the size of Earth

diamond planetNew evidence of a distant planet with diamond continents and seas of molten graphite will prove rich fodder for sci-fi fans.
But the diamond “super-Earth” — known as 55 Cancri e and twice the diameter of our planet — holds even more exciting possibilities for astrophysical science, says lead researcher Nikku Madhusudhan, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University’s Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Until now, far-off rocky planets were assumed to be oxygen-rich and carbon-poor, just like Earth. But the new research suggests 55 Cancri e is the reverse.
“It’s a much bigger event than just finding a planet,” says Madhusudhan. “We are, for the first time, trying to explore the chemistry of planets outside the solar system. We are making the first marks.”
Astronomers first spotted the planet transiting its host sun late last year. (That sun is 40 light years from Earth, yet visible to the naked eye in the constellation of Cancer.) By observing the planet’s movements with a powerful telescope, they determined its radius and mass.
Assuming a carbon-poor composition similar to Earth’s, astronomers could only make sense of the planet’s dimensions by hypothesizing that it sat inside a pocket of “supercritical” water.
Madhusudhan and his co-authors — Kanani Lee, a geophysicist at Yale, and Olivier Mousis, a planetary scientist at the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie in Toulouse, France — flipped that assumption on its head.
“We come in, we ask the question: well, what if the planet is not Earth-like?”source : http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2012/10/11/huge_diamond_planet_found_twice_the_size_of_earth.html





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