Scientists Discover Planet Covered in Diamonds

Posted October 22nd, 2012 at 6:34 pm (UTC-4)

Illustration of the interior of 55 Cancri e — an extremely hot planet with a surface of mostly graphite surrounding a thick layer of diamond, below which is a layer of silicon-based minerals and a molten iron core at the center. (Image: Haven Giguere)

Illustration of the interior of ’55 Cancri e’ — an extremely hot planet with a surface of mostly graphite surrounding a thick layer of diamond, with a molten iron core at the center. (Image: Haven Giguere)

Scientists have found a planet outside of our solar system which could be a true diamond in the rough.

This gem of a planet is twice Earth’s size, according to the US-Franco team that found it, and its surface appears to be covered in graphite and diamond.

Researchers estimate that at least one-third of the new planet’s mass could be diamond.

The gemstone planet, called ’55 Cancri e’, has a radius twice that of Earth’s and a mass that’s eight times greater, making it a “super-Earth.”  The planet is one of five found orbiting ’55 Cancri’, a sun-like star about 40 light years from Earth.  Located in the constellation of Cancer, scientists say the star can be seen with the naked eye.

Astronomers first spotted the planet last year as it was transiting its star, which allowed them to measure its radius for the first time.  Using that information, along with their most recent estimate of its mass, researchers used computer modeling to speculate on the chemical composition of the planet.

Previous research revealed that the host star, 55 Cancri, has more carbon than it does oxygen, leading the US-French team to confirm that significant amounts of carbon and silicon carbide, with only a small amount of water ice, were available during the planet’s formation.

Star map showing the planet-hosting star 55 Cancri in the constellation of Cancer. The star is visible to the naked eye, though better through binoculars. (Image:Nikku Madhusudhan using Sky Map Online)

Star map showing the planet-hosting star 55 Cancri in the constellation of Cancer. The star is visible to the naked eye. (Image:Nikku Madhusudhan using Sky Map Online)

Astronomers initially assumed the diamond planet’s chemical composition was similar to Earth’s and that 55 Cancri e contained a substantial quantity of super-heated water.  However, according to Yale University researcher Nikku Madhusudhan, the new research suggests the planet has no water at all and is primarily made up of carbon – such as graphite and diamond – as well as iron, silicon carbide, and, possibly, some silicates.

The identification of a carbon-rich super-Earth means scientists can no longer assume that all distant rocky planets have chemical elements, interiors, atmospheres or biologies similar to Earth, according to Madhusudhan.

Which means there could be other gemstone planets out there just waiting to be discovered.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

13 responses to “Scientists Discover Planet Covered in Diamonds”

  1. Lara says:

    Amazing! But when humans will be able to reach it?

  2. kattie says:

    that is sooo cool i wouldnt care when we can reach it but when cant he robots reach it, if it truly is made of diamond that we go up :]

  3. riano baggy says:

    that good sounds, we have ISS for headquarter control this operation,for prepares drilling equipments with smart robot i think this clarity it’s the best.

  4. Jorge says:

    Unhappily at the pace humankind is destroying our home planet and, according to the studies of great cosmologists, those greedy beings (just we are) will not have the pleasure to wear not even a simple jewelry- kind fragment taken from so distant planets.

  5. It it is amazing. These discoveries comfirm Socrates’ dictum that we know nothing.Man should stop all these senseless wars and let all mankind calm down and enjoy and celebrate the immense creations of God. UWALAKA VALENTINE.

  6. VOA-MKing says:

    Since it’s 40 light years away, those diamonds will be safe for now!

  7. dank says:

    Truly amazing.

  8. Livecloud says:

    It is really a good piece of welcome news that scientists have discovered a new planet that is covered with diamonds. But the problem is: Is there any way to extract those diamonds and bring them back to earth to be used for the benefit of mankind.

  9. Looky says:

    It has a core but dose this planet has eruptions. And has they found out the fahrenheit of this super earth.

  10. Egharevba Leon says:

    These scientists are really trying as they break new ground every now and then.
    I think they should given more encouragement,because i believe there are still more out there to be discovered,for the benefit of mankind.
    Egharevba Leon
    Edo state,

  11. […] Voice of America, Scientists Discover Planet covered in Diamonds, in Science World, October 22, 2012, // […]

  12. Yen Rangel says:

    Hi. I think there’s some thing wrong with your RSS. I hope you can fix it!

  13. cali says:

    Why don’t people create star ships already like the ones on star trek voyager and star trek I wanna be a space explorer when I’m older I fantasize about voyagers journies coming to life I wish people would advance our technoligie and get off there lazy buts! I love space I wanna explore space and see new things I love space! Its beautiful I wanna explore the alpha quadrant and explore other and all parts of space 🙁 Space is so unique and people can create technolgie simaler to voyagers but there to blind to realise it I wanna explore space and see other planets like 55 cancri e. But we can’t cuz people are just to lazy and stay on there buts all day eating chips ice cream and snickers while in a bathrobe or pajamas :/ and so they get nothing done D: