Scientists have dubbed a planet they previously thought impossible "Mega-Earth" due to its massive size.
Astronomers made the announcement yesterday at an American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston. Mega-Earth, which is also known as Kepler-10c, is 17 times the Earth's mass and more than two times its size:
Kepler-10c was originally spotted by NASA's Kepler spacecraft. Kepler finds planets using the transit method, looking for a star that dims when a planet passes in front of it. By measuring the amount of dimming, astronomers can calculate the planet's physical size or diameter. However, Kepler can't tell whether a planet is rocky or gassy.
Kepler-10c was known to have a diameter of about 18,000 miles, 2.3 times as large as Earth. This suggested it fell into a category of planets known as mini-Neptunes, which have thick, gaseous envelopes.
Xavier Dumusque of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics called it "This is the Godzilla of Earths!" in a press release. Furthermore, Mega-Earth orbits the 11 billion-year-old star Kepler-10, which is located some 560 light years from Earth, and has a year that lasts a mere 45 days.
Size aside, the reason scientists are so fascinated by the planet is because they didn't think it could ever exist. They previously believed that something that large would draw a plethora of hydrogen gas, creating a mass similar to Jupiter.
What's more, they believe the new planet could have "profound implications for the possibility of life." That's what truly makes Mega-Earth such an impressive surprise.
[via Business Insider]
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