This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 15 °C Tuesday 11 August, 2020
Advertisement

Astronomers find diamond planet twice the size of Earth

The planet is made up mainly of graphite and diamond and was spotted zooming around a nearby star.

An artist's rendition of the planet released by Yale University
An artist's rendition of the planet released by Yale University
Image: AFP/Yale University, Haven Giguere

TWINKLING STARS ARE not the only diamonds in the sky.

Scientists today reported the existence of a “diamond planet” twice the size of Earth, and eight times its mass, zooming around a nearby star.

In fact, this is not the first diamond planet ever discovered, but it is the first found orbiting a sun-like star and whose chemical makeup has been specified.

The discovery means that distant rocky planets can no longer be assumed to have chemical constituents, interiors, atmospheres, or biologies similar to those of Earth, said lead researcher Nikku Madhusudhan, a Yale postdoctoral researcher in physics and astronomy.

The planet was first observed last year – but researchers initially assumed it was similar in its chemical make-up to Earth.

It was only after a more detailed analysis that the French-American research team determined the planet is vastly different from our own.

It “appears to be composed primarily of carbon (as graphite and diamond), iron, silicon carbide, and, possibly, some silicates,” the authors wrote in a statement ahead of their findings’ publication in the US journal “Astrophysical Journal Letters.”

“The surface of this planet is likely covered in graphite and diamond rather than water and granite,” he explained.

In fact, the planet, dubbed Cancri 55 e, appears to have no water at all. And as much as a third of the planet’s substantial mass could be made of diamond, a super-dense compound of carbon.

In comparison, the Earth’s interior is rich in oxygen and very poor in carbon, explained Kanani Lee, also of Yale and another of the study’s co-authors.

The researchers estimated the planet’s radius with data collected while it was transiting in front of its star.

That information, combined with an estimate of its mass, was used to model the planet’s chemical composition, based on a calculation of just what elements and compounds could result in that specific size and mass.

The planet’s orbit around its star is lightning fast — a year lasts just 18 hours, compared to the 365 days of an Earth year. And because it is so close to its star, the surface temperatures average 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit (2,148 degrees Celsius), rendering it completely inhospitable to life.

But the planet — 40 light years away from Earth in the Cancer constellation — opens new avenues for studying geochemical and geophysical processes of Earth-sized planets outside our solar system.

- © AFP, 2012

Read: Singer Sarah Brightman books flight to space >

Read: Look out for a celestial spectacle in the skies tonight >

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

AFP

Read next:

COMMENTS (60)