Thursday, October 11, 2012

Astronomers have discovered a "Diamond" planet "55 Cancri e'" twice the size of Earth

Astronomers have discovered a planet twice the size of Earth made largely out of diamond.

This planet is named as '55 Cancri e', and it orbits a sun-like star in the constellation of Cancer.

This planet is discovered by a U.S.-Franco research team.

Its radius is twice that of Earth's but it is much more dense with a mass eight times greater. It is also incredibly hot, with temperatures on its surface reaching 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit (1,648 Celsius).

"The surface of this planet is likely covered in graphite and diamond rather than water and granite," said Nikku Madhusudhan, the Yale researcher.

Illustration of interior of 55 Cancri e Credit: Reuters/Haven Giguere/Yale University

And, it is estimated that at least a third of the planet's mass, the equivalent of about three Earth masses, could be diamond.

It takes less than 18 hours to complete an orbit and is the innermost known planet in its planetary system.

Like the majority of known extrasolar planets, 55 Cancri e was discovered by detecting variations in its star's radial velocity. This was achieved by making sensitive measurements of the Doppler shift of the spectrum of 55 Cancri.

Artist impression of Earth compared to 55 Cancri e

Diamond planets have been spotted before but this is the first time one has been seen orbiting a sun-like star and studied in such detail.

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