We have no idea what is beyond our known universe. Forget about that. We are not even totally aware of objects that are present within the known universe. Every now and then scientists/astronomers find something jaw-dropping. One such finding was the discovery of the exoplanet named ’55 Cancri e’. Now, discovery of a planet doesn’t really provide enough surprise to make our jaws drop. However, the 55 Cancri e really did have something unusual which made scientists dub it as ‘diamond planet’. Here the word ‘diamond’ literally means diamond as we known on Earth. So, 55 Cancri e was considered to be a planet made of diamonds. Whether it is true or not is a subject of intense debate but before we go into that part, let us learn 20 interesting diamond planet facts and find out some details about the exoplanet.
Interesting Diamond Planet Facts: 1-10
1. The planet 55 Cancri e was is located in the cancer constellation and sits at a distance of 40 light years from our Solar System.
2. This exoplanet is one of the 5 planets of the planetary system with the host star named 55 Cancri. It is also the innermost planet of the planetary system.
3. The planet has twice the diameter of Earth and is often referred to as super-Earth. It’s mass is eight times that of Earth.
4. Despite its massive size, the planet is the smallest about the 5-planet system. The planet is extremely close to its host star and makes one complete revolution around its star in just 18 hours (calculated according to time on Earth). This means, one year on 55 Cancri e is equivalent to 18 hours on Earth.
5. The planet’s surface facing the star has an extremely high temperature of 3,140 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is enough to melt metals.
6. The planet was discovered in 2004 on August 20. Until 2010, scientists believed that the planet took 2.8 Earth days to orbit around its star but new calculations in 2010 revealed that it took only 18 hours.
7. As far as the characteristics of the planet are concerned, scientists initially believed that the 55 Cancri e was a small gas giant somewhat similar to Neptune.
8. Some other scientists believed that the planet could be large and rocky terrestrial planet.
9. Observations of 2010 revealed that both the exoplanet 55 Cancri e and its star 55 Cancri had more carbon than oxygen.
10. Scientists started hypothesizing that 1/3rd of the planet’s entire mass was made up of carbon.
Interesting Diamond Planet Facts: 11-20
11. It was believed that much of the carbon of the planet was in form of diamond because of the enormous pressures and temperature of interiors of the planet. This is why the planet received the name ‘diamond planet’.
12. In 2011, scientists managed to calculate the density of the planet and based on the calculations, they started believing that the exoplanet was actually a water planet. The calculations were made during the planet’s transit
13. It was during that observation that scientists found complete absence of hydrogen which opened up a new theory that the volatiles of the planet were carbon dioxide and not hydrogen or water.
14. In 2013 Johanna Teske from University of Arizona led a team and revisited the 2010 data about the so called diamond planet and its host star 55 Cancri. It was found during the study that the host star only had half the amount of carbon as oxygen.
15. According to the finding of Teske and her team, the host star had 25% more oxygen compared to carbon.
16. Teske said that the diamond planet was proposed based on the calculations that both the planet and the host star had more carbon than oxygen but as the new studies suggest, initial calculations about the host star no longer holds valid.
17. Teske however did not completely discard the possibility of the diamond planet. She said that stars and their planets may not always have similar composition.
18. Teske explained that stars and planets are formed from swirling gas and dust disks and it may be possible that there are areas where oxygen is more abundant and there may be other areas where carbon is more abundant. So, if a star is formed in oxygen-rich pocket, a planet can always form in carbon-rich pocket of the disk.
19. According to Teske, the diamond planet possibly has a rocky crust made of graphite.
20. Whether the planet has an atmosphere or not still remains unconfirmed and further studies are required for understanding the planet in a better way.
No matter what conclusions scientists draw, everything will be pure assumption based within the limitations of science known to humans. Sending a probe that can traverse a distance of 40 light years from our Solar System is highly unlikely with the current technologies we have. We will have to wait and it is highly likely that we will never come to know the truth at least in this lifetime.