A giant planet previously thought impossible to exist has just been discovered by astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).
Kepler-10c, located 560 light-years from us, is 17 times heavier than the Earth. It was previously believed that such a world couldn’t exist, because its mass would attract hydrogen atoms and form a “gas giant” such as Jupiter in our own solar system.
It is the biggest “super-Earth” yet discovered, prompting scientists to dub it a “mega-Earth”.
“This is the Godzilla of Earths! But unlike the movie monster, Kepler-10c has positive implications for life,” said CfA researcher Dimitar Sasselov, director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, in a press release.
Further analysis showed that the planet is likely composed of dense rock and other solids, and is capable of sustaining an atmosphere.
“Kepler-10c didn’t lose its atmosphere over time. It’s massive enough to have held onto one if it ever had it. (The planet) must have formed the way we see it now,” said Xavier Dumusque, who led the data analysis and made the discovery.
The world as we know it
The planet has also caused scientists to re-assess what we know about the history of the universe.
At 11 billion years old, Kepler 10-c was formed less than 3 billion years after the Big Bang—a time when the heavier elements that make up everything else in the universe, from people to planets, weren’t believed to have existed yet.
“Finding Kepler-10c tells us that rocky planets could form much earlier than we thought. And if you can make rocks, you can make life,” says Sasselov.
First spotted by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, Kepler-10c orbits a sunlike star in the Draco constellation once every 45 days. The star system is also home to Kepler 10-b, a “lava world” three times the mass of Earth with a 20-hour orbit.
By : TJ Dimacali, GMA News