Thursday, October 11, 2012

Astronomers Reveal Planet Is Made Of Diamond

A planet about 40 light years away and twice the size of Earth is made largely out of diamond, astronomers have said.

The rocky planet, called 55 Cancri e, is orbiting a sun-like star that is visible with the naked eye.

It is in the constellation of Cancer and is moving so fast that a year there lasts a mere 18 hours.

Discovered by a US-Franco research team, the planet’s radius is twice that of Earth's and its mass eight times greater. Temperatures on its surface reach 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 whose findings are due to be published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The study, with Olivier Mousis at the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planetologie in Toulose, France, estimates that at least a third of the planet's mass could be diamond.

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. Read More