Newly discovered 'super-Earth' is made of diamonds, say scientists
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Thursday 11 October 2012
It may not twinkle like a star but it is still a diamond in the sky according to astronomers who have found a rocky planet similar to Earth but made of the precious gemstone.
The diamond planet is one of five "exoplanets" orbiting a distant star called 55 Cancri, some 40 light years away from our own Solar System but still visible to the naked eye in the constellation of Cancer.
Scientists said that an analysis of the chemical composition of the planet based on measurements of its mass and radius, combined with computer modelling, suggests its outer crust is largely composed of solid carbon crystals.
"This is the first glimpse of a rocky world with a fundamentally different chemistry from Earth. The surface of this planet is likely covered in graphite and diamond rather than water and granite," said Nikku Madhusudhan of Yale University.
The planet's radius is twice that of Earth's, but its mass it eight times greater, making it a "superearth". It orbits its own star at hyper speed, with a year lasting just 18 hours, and surface temperatures reaching a blistering 2,150C with no possibility of liquid water and therefore life.
The study, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, estimates that at least a third of the planet could be composed of diamond, with the rest made up of graphite, iron, silicon carbide and possibly silicates.
"By contrast, Earth's interior is rich in oxygen, but extremely poor in carbon, less than one part in a thousand by mass," said Kanani Lee, a geologist at Yale and co-author of the study.
It is the first time that astronomers have identified a diamond planet, although they have theorised about their existence for some time.
David Spergel, professor of astronomy at Yale, said: "Stars are simple. Given a star's mass and age, you know its basic structure and history. Planets are much more complex. This diamond-rich super-Earth is likely [to be] just one example of the rich sets of discoveries that await us as we begin to explore planets around nearby stars."
- 1 Strictly Come Dancing 2014: Gregg Wallace joins line-up as final celebrities revealed
- 2 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 3 Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
- 4 Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
- 5 George Galloway left with severe bruising after attack in Notting Hill by man 'shouting about the Holocaust'
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
George Galloway left with severe bruising after attack in Notting Hill by man 'shouting about the Holocaust'
Brother and sister, Christopher Buckner and Timothy Savoy, arrested for 'committing incest after watching 'The Notebook''
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
- < Previous
- Next >
Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...
£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...
Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...
£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...