India-born astronomer finds the planet of diamonds
It could be an ideal place for those in love with diamonds, because it is made of nothing but diamond.But the problem is that it’s a bit far and too hot to be habitable.
That’s the description of a new diamond planet discovered by astronomers outside the solar system.
The exoplanet has been discovered by India-born astronomer Nikku Madhusudhan, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University.
An illustration of the interior Silicon carbide of ’55 Cancri e’; Nikku Madhusudhan, pictured right
Details of the finding will be published in the scientific journal Astrophysical Journal Letters, the university announced on Thursday.
Madhusudhan calls the rocky planet ‘Super Earth’ because it is twice the earth’s size and has mass which is eight times greater.
The planet is orbiting a nearby star at super speed – its year lasts just 18 hours.It is too hot to be habitable – about 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit.
The planet is located some 40 light years away from the earth, yet it is visible to the naked eye in the constellation of Cancer, scientists said.
One light year is about 9.5 trillion kilometres – the distance light travels in one year.’The planet’s surface is probably covered in graphite and diamond rather than water and granite,’ Madhusudhan said.
This is his second major discovery of an exoplanet rich in carbon. The astronomer, a product of Banaras Hindu University, combines astronomical observations with computer modelling to figure out planetary atmosphere.
Astronomers can decipher a planet’s atmospheric composition by observing its flux or the light emitted by it in different wavelengths.
The new planet has been dubbed ’55 Cancri e’. It was first observed transiting its star last year, which allowed researchers to measure its radius.
This new information, combined with an estimate of its mass, allowed Madhusudhan to infer its chemical composition using models of its interior.
He computed all possible combinations of elements and compounds that would yield those specific characteristics.
The analysis suggests the planet has no water at all, and appears to be composed primarily of carbon (as graphite and diamond), iron, silicon carbide, and, possibly, some silicates.
The study estimates that at least one-third of the planet’s mass could be diamond.