Feeds

That 'DIAMOND SUPER EARTH' may actually be WORTHLESS ball of gas

Priceless planet could be filled with hot air - literally

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

A "diamond super Earth" discovered a year ago may not be anywhere near as valuable as previously suggested.

A graduate student at the University of Arizona has examined data that appeared to point to the existence of a diamond-stuffed world circling 55 Cancri, a star which is 40 light-years away from Earth.

Scientists at Yale had earlier suggested that the precious planet 55 Cancri e was a rocky globe with a shell of graphite surrounding a thick layer of diamond, but this has now been thrown into doubt.

Credit: Haven Giguere/Yale University

Shine on, you crazy diamond ... 55 Cancri e as imagined by Haven Giguere/Yale University

Johanna Teske, an astronomy PhD student, and her team looked at data relating to the chemical makeup of 55 Cancri as that information can indicate the composition of the planets built by the star. She found the burning orb contained much less carbon than originally indicated, and even more oxygen.

She therefore reckons the diamond world has a similar constitution to its star, meaning it is likely to be made of less carbon - and therefore diamond - than once hoped.

"In theory, 55 Cancri e could still have a high carbon to oxygen ratio and be a diamond planet, but the host star does not have such a high ratio," Teske said.

"So in terms of the two building blocks of information used for the initial 'diamond-planet' proposal – the measurements of the exoplanet and the measurements of the star – the measurements of the star no longer verify that."

The so-called super Earth is the smallest of five planets orbiting 55 Cancri. It orbits the star at such speed that a year lasts just 18 hours and its surface temperature soars to more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit - almost enough to melt platinum.

"This planet is probably rocky or has a large rocky component," Teske continued. "We don't really know if it has an atmosphere."

She added: "Depending on where 55 Cancri e formed in the protoplanetary disk [around its sun], its carbon-to-oxygen ratio could differ from that of the host star. It could be higher or lower. But based on what we know at this point, 55 Cancri e is more of a 'diamond in the rough'."

The work of Teske and her team [PDF] is due to be published in the Astrophysical Journal. ®

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.