Skip to comments.Astronomers Confounded By Massive Rocky World
Posted on 07/08/2014 10:32:53 AM PDT by robowombat
Astronomers Confounded By Massive Rocky World by Staff Writers Pasadena CA (JPL) Jun 05, 2014
An artist's conception shows the Kepler-10 system, home to two rocky planets. In the foreground is Kepler-10c, a planet that weighs 17 times as much as Earth and is more than twice as large in size. Planet formation theorists are challenged to explain how such a massive world could have formed. Image courtesy Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and David Aguilar. 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.
The finding was presented at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Boston. Read more about the discovery in the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics news release.
NASA's Ames Research Center manages Kepler's ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, managed the Kepler mission's development.
Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado, developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Welcome to Rocky World!......................
Is the birth certificate there????
Maybe its more than a single planet. It could be a large planet with multiple large moons. A planet that massive could have a moon as large as the earth.
Gold, Silver, Platinum, Uranium, Lead, Mercury, my be found in abundance?.....................
There are more things in heaven and earth, Natalie, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Must be a liberal eco-planet.....No Gas.............
I wonder, It’s 2.3 time the size of Earth but is 17 times more mass.
So would a human being weigh 2.3 times as much as on Earth or 17 times?................
17 times heavier I believe.
In fact, that much more mass could hold very large moons in stable orbits.
Rocky would work but since it’s in Draco what about Malfoy?
googling “Astronmers confounded” yielded 690,000 results. They must be seriously frustrated by now.
According to my calculation, the ratio of this planets gravity to that of earth would be 3.214 times. (17/2.3^2)
I’m not an expert by any means, but it seems to me that the close proximity of this planet to its parent star might play a role. To maintain a gaseous atmosphere, the velocity of the gas molecules must be lower than the escape velocity of the planet. Obviously, a planet with a larger mass and a higher density would have a higher escape velocity. However, the average velocity of the molecules in a gas sample increases with temperature. A planet located close to the parent star would have a high surface temperature. That results in higher average velocities for gas molecules. Further, lighter molecular weight gases have higher average velocities. We don’t really know the composition of the gases that could have theoretically formed this planet’s atmosphere, so perhaps a combination of an abundance of lighter gases along with a high temperature could account for the possibility of a large rocky world?
That's my guess, too. However, that doesn't account for the "hot Jupiters" that have already been found: close-in gas giants.