News / Science & Technology

'Godzilla of Earths' Exoplanet Discovered

The newly discovered "mega-Earth" Kepler-10c dominates the foreground in this artist's conception. (David A. Aguilar (CfA)
The newly discovered "mega-Earth" Kepler-10c dominates the foreground in this artist's conception. (David A. Aguilar (CfA)

Related Articles

NASA Observes Moon's Tidal Bulge from Lunar Orbit

Earth’s gravity is strong enough to create a 51 centimeter-high bulge on both the near and far sides of the moon

NASA to Test 'Flying Saucer' for Future Mars Missions

Inspiration for Low Density Supersonic Decelerator came, oddly enough, from a sea creature, the Hawaiian pufferfish

Scientists Call Image of Exoplanet 'Best-Ever'

Planet Beta Pictoris b is 63 light-years from Earth
VOA News
Scientists have discovered an exoplanet they’re dubbing a “mega-Earth.”

Kepler-10c is a rocky world weighing as much as 17 Earths, according to researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"This is the Godzilla of Earths!" said CfA researcher Dimitar Sasselov, director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative in a statement. "But unlike the movie monster, Kepler-10c has positive implications for life."

What makes Kepler-10c so unusual is that scientists thought any planet that big would “grab hydrogen gas as it grew and become a Jupiter-like gas giant.”

Kepler-10c has a diameter of about 18,000 miles, 2.3 times as large as Earth, researchers said.  The massive world is 560 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Draco. It circles its star every 45 days.

Kepler-10c was spotted indirectly by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft using the transit method, which measures the amount a star dims when a planet passes it. While they were able to calculate the size of the planet, scientists were not able to determine if it was rocky or gassy.

Using the HARPS-North instrument on the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands to measure the mass of Kepler-10c, scientists realized it weighed 17 times as much as Earth, meaning it must not be a gassy world.

"Kepler-10c didn't lose its atmosphere over time. It's massive enough to have held onto one if it ever had it," said  Xavier Dumusque of the Cfa, who led the data analysis and made the discovery. "It must have formed the way we see it now."

The Kepler-10 system is 11 billion years old, according to researchers, meaning it was formed less than 3 billion years after the creation of the universe.

Since the early universe only contained hydrogen and helium, the heavier materials needed to form planets had to have been created in the earliest stars. When those stars died and exploded, “they scattered these crucial ingredients through space, which then could be incorporated into later generations of stars and planets.”

That process, researchers said, “should have taken billions of years, but Kepler-10c shows rocky planets were able to form despite the scarcity of heavy elements.

"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," says Sasselov.

That such an old star system has an Earth-like planet means researchers can also look for potentially habitable planets in those systems as well.

The team's finding was presented today in a press conference at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs