Densest solid planet known ’super-exotic super-Earth’ unveiled

April 29th, 2011 - 3:37 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr 29 (ANI): An international team of astronomers have revealed details of a “super-exotic” exoplanet, which is the densest solid planet known.

The planet, named 55 Cancri e, is 60 percent larger in diameter than Earth but eight times as massive, and twice as dense as Earth, almost as dense as lead.

The team was led by astronomers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of British Columbia (UBC), the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC).

The research was based on observations from Canada’s MOST (Microvariability and Oscillations of STars) space telescope. MOST is a Canadian Space Agency mission.

Approximately 40 light years from Earth, 55 Cancri e orbits a star, called 55 Cancri A, so closely that its year is less than 18 hours long.

“You could set dates on this world by your wrist watch, not a calendar,” UBC astronomer Jaymie Matthews said.

The temperature on the planet’s surface could be as high as 2,700 degrees Celsius.

“Because of the infernal heat, it’s unlikely that 55 Cancri e has an atmosphere. So this is not the type of place where exobiologists would look for life,” lead author Josh Winn of MIT said.

However, 55 Cancri e is the type of place exoplanetary scientists will be eager to “visit” with their telescopes, Winn said.

“The brightness of the host star makes many types of sensitive measurements possible, so 55 Cancri e is the perfect laboratory to test theories of planet formation, evolution and survival,” he said

While the planet isn’t visible, even through a telescope, its host star, 55 Cancri A, can be observed with the naked eye for the next two months on a clear dark night.

“On this world, the densest solid planet found anywhere so far, in the Solar System or beyond, you would weigh three times heavier than you do on Earth,” Matthews, MOST Mission Scientist and second author on the paper said.

“By day, the sun would look 60 times bigger and shine 3,600 times brighter in the sky,” he explained.

The findings have been released online at and has been submitted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. (ANI)

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