kepler 10c

Signs as Cool Space Things
  • Aries: The Planet of Burning Ice (Gliese 436 b)
  • Taurus: Trifid Nebula
  • Gemini: The Castor System
  • Cancer: TrES-2b
  • Leo: Hypervelocity Stars
  • Virgo: The Diamond Planet (55 Cancri e)
  • Libra: Himiko Cloud
  • Scorpio: The LQG (Large Quasar Group)
  • Sagittarius: Mega-Earth Kepler-10c
  • Capricorn: Pillars of Creation
  • Aquarius: Epsilon Eridani b
  • Pisces: GJ 1214b

Astronomers confounded by massive rocky world

Astronomers have discovered a rocky planet that weighs 17 times as much as Earth and is more than twice as large in size. This discovery has planet formation theorists challenged to explain how such a world could have formed.

“We were very surprised when we realized what we had found,” said astronomer Xavier Dumusque of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the analysis using data originally collected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

Kepler-10c, as the planet had been named, had a previously measured size of 2.3 times larger than Earth, but its mass was not known until now. The team used the HARPS-North instrument on the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands to conduct follow-up observations to obtain a mass measurement of the rocky behemoth.

It was thought worlds such as this could not possibly exist. The enormous gravitational force of such a massive body would accrete a gas envelope during formation, ballooning the planet to a gas giant the size of Neptune or even Jupiter. However, this planet is thought to be solid, composed primarily of rock.

“Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, nature gives you a huge surprise – in this case, literally,” said Natalie Batalha, Kepler mission scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “Isn’t science marvelous?”

Kepler-10c orbits a sun-like star every 45 days, making it too hot to sustain life as we know it. It is located about 560 light-years from Earth in the constellation Draco. The system also hosts Kepler-10b, the first rocky planet discovered in the Kepler data.

Image credit: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/David Aguilar

mr-dvorak  asked:

Would it be possible to have a solar system like ours, but with a large planet in the center instead of a star?

Well, first off we can make a guess by the language we use - Solar System. Solar; pertaining to the sun (or Stars). 

I personally don’t know of any solar systems with planets at the centre (would they be called planetary systems?). The reason for this, is that most of the more massive planets are made of gas anyway, such as Jupiter. Once masses of gas get to a certain level of mass, they began the fusion process due to the sufficient gravity and ignite into a star anyway. So it’s a no-no for gas planets, as they’ll just turn into stars.

For rocky planets, it’d take much more mass to create ignition. But the largest rocky planet we know of is Kepler 10c, around 17 times the mass of Earth - nothing compared to stars (generally). 

With a lot more free particles and gases such as hydrogen drifitng in space, it’s intuitively more common to see large gas based planets, as they have the building material. Much less common to see more complex material such as rocks. Plus, planets that are gas and planets that are rock tend to form in slightly different ways; but you’ll need to go get a physics degree for that!

So this will be a science answer - no, it’s not really possible with the knowledge of astronomy we have now. But the fact is we know so little about space and i’m sure this could be proven wrong. 

But the thing is, stars are massive. The Sun is a million times larger than the Earth, and it is just a medium sized star. We know of others much bigger. By contrast, Kepler 10c is the biggest (rocky planet) we know of, and it’s not crazy different than Earth. 

Another thing to keep in mind, there are binary systems with two stars, as well as systems that are around black holes. I’m sure this could create the perfect circumstances to have a planet at a particular “centre”. Also remembering that solar systems orbit other parts of space etc, and that everything is moving all of the damn time. Orbits are just a construct for predictions and understanding in a particular reference frame, and are just a direct consequence of gravity. 

Gravity isn’t picky about what it attracts to, it just knows it attracts to the bigger things stronger.  

As always, science answers suck because they’re so not definitive but so definitive at the same time! Hope it helps get you thinking though.

- Konner