Monday, August 8, 2016

55 cancri e - The Diamond Planet

In late 2010 it was reported that research suggests that a massive, star-scorched planet in the Cancer constellation, not far from our solar system, is made in large part of diamonds, opening new vistas on the way scientists understand how planets are created.
55 cancri e, is twice the size of Earth and so rich in carbon that it holds at least three times our planet’s mass in diamonds, according to a new paper that has been accepted for publication in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

On 55 cancri e, the surface is covered in graphite, the dark stuff of pencils, with diamonds pushing through from layers underneath.
“We’re talking about a rocky planet. Not much gas, almost entirely solid. The outermost layer is at an extremely high temperature ... there could also be a lot of diamonds on the surface because of the geophysical movements in the interior. The diamonds could come to the surface very easily,” Dr. Madhusudhan said in an interview. “But just below the surface there is a very thick layer, about a third of the whole radius [of the planet], just in diamonds.”
That rocky, mind-boggling world broils under 2,150C heat because the planet is so close to its star.

The planet is the closest of five that orbit around 55 Cancri A, a star located 40 light years from Earth, close enough that it can sometimes be seen with the naked eye.