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Kepler Earth-Like Planet Spotted by NASA Telescope 560 Light-Years Away

By    |   Tuesday, 03 June 2014 07:15 AM

A "Mega Earth" has been spotted by NASA's Kepler space telescope orbiting a distant star, the space agency announced Monday.

Located some 560 light-years from Earth in the constellation Draco, the newly discovered planet — named Kepler-10c — has a particularly rocky surface and is said to be 17 times heavier and 2.3 times larger than our Blue Planet, having a diameter of about 18,000 miles.

"This is the Godzilla of Earths," Dimitar Sasselov, director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative and a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in press release published by EurekaAlert.org. "But unlike the movie monster, Kepler-10c has positive implications for life."

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"We were very surprised when we realized what we had found," added astronomer Xavier Dumusque, who led the data analysis and made the discovery.

According to Dumusque, unlike other planets, "Kepler-10c didn't lose its atmosphere over time. It's massive enough to have held onto one if it ever had it . . . It must have formed the way we see it now."

Whereas the Earth circles our sun every 365 days, Kepler-10c circles its sun-like star once every 45 days, according to NASA.

In addition to its massive size and speed at which it orbits its sun, Kepler-10c also has its own satellite planet named the Kepler-10b. The satellite planet, which orbits the "Mega Earth" planet at an incredibly fast rate of just 20 hours per cycle, has a mass approximately three times that of Earth and consists largely of lava, giving way to its NASA nickname of "Lava World."

Estimated to be approximately 11 billion years old, the Kepler-10c system likely formed less than 3 billion years after the Big Bang, according to scientists with the Center for Astrophysics. The conclusion stems from the fact that rocky planets such as Kepler-10c required silicon and iron to form — such elements were created in the first generations of stars.

The formation process of the planet likely took several billions of years, according to Sasselov, who concluded, "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."

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A "Mega Earth" has been spotted by NASA's Kepler space telescope orbiting a distant star, the space agency announced Monday.
kepler, earth, nasa, telescope
Tuesday, 03 June 2014 07:15 AM
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