New measurements reveal Kepler-10c (previously thought to have been a gaseous planet akin to a smaller Neptune) sports a dense, rocky mass over ten times higher than Earth's. Surprised scientists had previously thought solid planets could never be so large.
Astronomers have created a new classification for giant Earth-like spheres after the surprising discovery that a planet previously thought to be gaseous is actually solid. The planet is Kepler-10c, which orbits the star Kepler-10 about 560 light-years away. Kepler-10c weighs 17 times as much as Earth and notably features a considerable amount of water. Based on previous theories, Kepler-10c shouldn’t exist; planets that large tend to lose their atmospheres over time and grow into gas giants. The discovery is a game-changer.
What’s the Big Idea?
The discovery of Kepler-10c as a solid planet opens the door to loads of new questions and hypotheses about the formation of the universe. As the Kepler-10 system is about 11 billion years old, astronomers are now tackling the issue of how rocky planets were formed before elements such as silicon and iron were commonplace throughout the universe. Additional questions have risen about the system’s capacity to host (or to have hosted) life.
If this discovery has got you itching to log onto Priceline and book the first flight to Kepler-10c, you may need to temper your expectations. Despite its similarities to Earth, Kepler-10c ‘s surface temperature runs at about 413°F, making it just about as hospitable as Oklahoma City in the summer time.
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