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Diamond Planet Cancri 55 E Lights Up Astronomers' Skies

Glitter in the air is now a documented fact, thanks to the work of astronomers who discovered a “diamond planet” and reported their findings on Thursday, October 11, 2012. Lead researcher Kikku Madhusudhan of Yale’s physics and astronomy department has confirmed the existence of the diamond and graphite planet named Cancri 55 e located near a star first within the Cancer constellation. Madhusudhan offered that the planet “is our first glimpse of a rocky world with a fundamentally different chemistry from Earth.”

Cancri 55 e was observed in 2004 but not thoroughly researched until last year when French-American researchers led by Olivier Mousis at the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planetologie in Toulouse, France, investigated its composition, size, and location. Recent research conducted by Madhusudhan, David Spergel from Princeton University, and others confirm that the planet is apparently “composed primarily of carbon, (as graphite and diamond), iron, silicon carbide, and, possibly some silicates” per reports published in the U.S.’s Astrophysical Journal Letters. Spergel offered that “planets are much more complex. This ‘diamond-rich super-Earth’ is likely just one example of the rich sets of discoveries that await us as we begin to explore planets around nearby stars.”

The team’s findings suggest that Cancri 55 e weighs in at eight times the mass of Earth, is twice as big as Earth, lacks water, has an orbit of 18 hours which revolves around a sun-like star, and has surface temperatures of approximately 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, the team estimates that Cancri 55 e is over 40 light years (or 230 trillion miles) away and completely inhospitable to living organisms. The planet can be viewed without a telescope since it is visible with the naked eye and gives an entirely new meaning to the old childhood tune “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

Some have already dubbed Cancri 55 e “the Space Diamond,” “the Diamond Planet,” and “a wasteland of parched rock.” No matter how it's referred to, its mere existence is as exciting as its shine.

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