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Scientists discover planet 17 times Earth's weight

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This June 2, 2014 handout provided by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, shows the newly discovered ‘mega-Earth’ Kepler-10c dominating the foreground in this artist’s conception.

Discovery of a huge rocky planet 17 times as heavy as the Earth has prompted scientists to, judging from its age, rethink the origins of the universe.

Kepler-10c, the new find by NASA’s Kepler mission, goes around a star 560 light years away.

It belongs to the Kepler-10 system, which is some 11 billion years old. Dimitar Sasselov, director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, said, “Finding Kepler-10c tells us that rocky planets could form much earlier than we thought. And if you can make rocks, you can make life.”

“This is the Godzilla of Earths!” he said, referring to the orbiter, which is 2.3 times the size of the Earth.

Sasselov said, “…Kepler-10c has positive implications for life.”

“Kepler-10c didn’t lose its atmosphere over time. It’s massive enough to have held onto one if it ever had it,” said astronomer Xavier Dumusque.

The technique used by the telescope has it monitor the light emitted by stars and see whether it dims from time to time. Using the method, scientists can obtain the planet’s diameter.

The planet is much denser than earth. Sasselov said the rock composing it is twice as dense as the rock we are used to.


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