Hollywool releases movies, authors release books, NASA releases new planets — all based on fantasy.
A rocky planet weighing 17 times as much as Earth has been found, surprising astronomers who expected it to be a big ball of gas.
Scientists dubbed the planet a “mega-Earth” because its much larger than previously discovered rocky celestial bodies. The planet, sighted by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, is located 560 light years from Earth and circles a Sun-like star every 45 days, The finding was reported Monday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston.
Scientists have theorized that a planet that big, formed when heavy elements were scarce in the early days of the universe, couldn’t have formed as a solid. They expected to find that the planet, called Kepler-10c, was a gas giant like Jupiter, made up primarily of hydrogen. Instead, when they measured its density with special instruments, they found it weighed more than Earth.
“Finding Kepler-10c tells us that rocky planets could form much earlier than we thought,” said Dimitar Sasselov, director of the Origins of Life Initiative at Harvard University, in a statement. “And if you can make rocks, you can make life.”
The new planet is in a system about 11 billion years old, forming less than 3 billion years after the Big Bang, according to the report Monday. The Earth is about 4.54 billion years old.