Imagine this: a planet twice the size of Earth that is made up largely of diamond. Yes, that beautiful (and hard) carbon material found on Earth is actually one of the primary building blocks of a planet known as 55 Cancri e circling a sun-like star in the Cancer constellation.
This newly discovered planet has a year lasting just 18 hours and a surface temperature that is believed to reach 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s no paradise, nor is it just a giant diamond mine. Graphite and diamond are said to be the two primary materials covering the rocky terrain with diamond making up roughly 1/3 of the planet’s mass. The diamond-rich planet has roughly eight times the mass of Earth, which makes it about as dense.
This is a pretty cool discovery. This is the first time a diamond-like planet has been found circling a star not unlike our own. PSR J1719-1438 b, an extrasolar planet discovered in 2011, was found circling a millisecond pulsar that was once part of a binary solar system. This planet is believed to be the densest we’ve discovered to date. At roughly 20 times the density of Jupiter, it was believed that graphite and diamond heavy planets needed to be quite dense. The discovery of 55 Cancri e shows that this type of planet can exist with density similar to that of Earth.
Discoveries like these are only possible because of continued funding to space programs and research organizations around the globe. This particular discovery was made by a joint effort between French and American researchers. The initial discovery of the planet was made possible by NASA technology, though the preliminary findings indicated that the planet’s surface was made up of similar materials to our own. It wasn’t until more detailed research was done that the planet’s true composition was determined.
Don’t go packing your bags for a trip just yet. 55 Cancri e is located roughly 230 trillion miles away, so a mission to this far-off planet is likely out of the question anytime soon. Still, it’s good to know that there are abundant sources of diamonds out there in the Universe. 55 Cancri e would provide for the engagement ring industry for eons to come.