News and Tribune

Community News Network

June 2, 2014

Astronomers discover rocky gargantuan planet dubbed 'mega-Earth'

A rocky planet weighing 17 times as much as Earth has been found, surprising astronomers who expected it to be a big ball of gas.

Scientists dubbed the planet a "mega-Earth" because its much larger than previously discovered rocky celestial bodies. The planet, sighted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Kepler spacecraft, is located 560 light years from Earth and circles a Sun-like star every 45 days, The finding was reported Monday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston.

Scientists have theorized that a planet that big, formed when heavy elements were scarce in the early days of the universe, couldn't have formed as a solid. They expected to find that the planet, called Kepler-10c, was a gas giant like Jupiter, made up primarily of hydrogen. Instead, when they measured its density with special instruments, they found it weighed more than Earth.

"Finding Kepler-10c tells us that rocky planets could form much earlier than we thought," said Dimitar Sasselov, director of the Origins of Life Initiative at Harvard University, in a statement. "And if you can make rocks, you can make life."

The new planet is in a system about 11 billion years old, forming less than 3 billion years after the Big Bang, according to the report Monday. The Earth is about 4.54 billion years old.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
LOCAL MAGAZINES
Easter 2014 photos


Click on any photo to purchase it.

SPECIAL CONTENT
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction
2013 Photos of the year


Take a look at our most memorable photos from 2013.