The Kepler space telescope has given humanity a look into space that is nothing short of fascinating. In fact, the telescope has provided data that suggests that there could be billions of earth-like planets in our own cosmic backyard. A new find to come out of the data provided by the Kepler is of a ‘mega’ planet that is 17 times heavier than our planet Earth. In a sense it dwarfs all other planets found that were classified as ‘super-planets’ and were seen as impressive on their own. To give you an indication of how significant this size is, although Kepler has found many earth-like planets, they have never seen something quite this big. Its name? Kepler-10c.
Another interesting factor is that this planet is incredibly solid and very rocky. Many of the other planets found by Kepler were very large and gaseous, something that likely couldn’t contain life as we know it.
When astronomers initially measured the diameter of this monster find it came in at 29,000 kilometers or 2.3 times larger than Earth. Although that would have been impressive enough, new information from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) reveals the planet is incredibly heavy, 17 times the weight of earth! The weight makes scientists pretty confident that the planet is made of very dense materials and is likely very rocky.
“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,” lead researcher Dimitar Sasselov says in a press release.
Many More Potentially Habitable Planets
Kepler-10c orbits a star similar to our sun. Kepler-10c’s sun is 560 lightyears away from us and completes an orbit once every 45 days. Although experts may have previously assumed that any planet with the size and mass of Kepler-10c would be gaseous, this new discovery of its dense nature suggests it can inhabit life quite easily. This also means there could be many other dense and rocky planets not far from Earth that could also be habitable.
The mass of Kepler-10c is not all that scientists have learned from this discovery. They have found out that there may be a link between how long it takes for a planet to orbit its star and how large a rocky planet can grow to be. For example, a rocky planet farther away from its star may be bigger than if it was much closer. If this turns out to be true, we can expect to discover many more mega-planets as we search for more exoplanets.
Humanity is certainly on a path of discovering some amazing things and the more we keep an open mind to what we can find, the more we seem to be discovering. With a shift in our perception here on earth collectively, we can use so much of what we are learning, in all aspects of science, in ways that are beneficial for not just ourselves but also the ecosystem and animal kingdom.
Image Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)
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