Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Carbon-rich planet: A girl's best friend?

09.12.2010
Rocks throughout the planet could be made of pure carbon, in forms such as diamonds or graphite

A peculiar gas-giant planet orbiting a sun-like star 1200 light-years away is the first carbon-rich world ever observed.

The implications are big for planetary chemistry, because without much oxygen, common rocks throughout the planet would be made of pure carbon, in forms such as diamonds or graphite.

"On most planets, oxygen is abundant. It makes rocks such as quartz and gases such as carbon dioxide," said University of Central Florida professor Joseph Harrington, one of the study's lead researchers. "With more carbon than oxygen, you would get rocks of pure carbon, such as diamond or graphite, and lots of methane gas."

"This planet tells us that there are many other strange worlds out there, beyond even the imaginations of the people doing the science," added Nikku Madhusudhan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the lead author of the study, which appears in the Dec. 9 issue of the journal Nature.

Harrington and his team at UCF led the Spitzer observations and data analysis. The UCF team used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to measure the light of the planet, WASP-12b, as it passed behind its star, a so-called secondary eclipse.

Madhusudhan performed the chemical analysis of data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. By using UCF's data and other published results at different infrared wavelengths, he compared the infrared behavior of common gases to determine the composition of the planet's atmosphere. Researchers were surprised to find methane, a trace gas on Earth, because it typically does not exist in the searing-hot temperatures found on this planet.

Carbon is a key building block of life, but could life exist if there is too much carbon? NASA's recent announcement of a bacterium that thrives in a poisonous arsenic environment is yet another example of life's incredible adaptability.

"I wouldn't discount any cool planet as a possible haven for life, no matter what its chemistry," Harrington said.

WASP-12b isn't cool enough for life. It is so close to its star that its "year" is just 26 hours, and its daytime temperatures of about 4700 degrees Fahrenheit make it the second-hottest planet ever measured. It is also the second-largest known planet, as it is more than 80 percent wider than Jupiter.

The planet was discovered last year by a UK consortium, the Wide Angle Search for Planets. Some of the Spitzer data used by the UCF team were contributed by WASP team member Peter Wheatley of the University of Warwick.

Other authors of the paper are Kevin Stevenson, Sarah Nymeyer, Christopher Campo, Jasmina Blecic, Ryan Hardy, Nate Lust, Christopher Britt and William Bowman of the University of Central Florida; Drake Deming of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; David Anderson, Coel Hellier and Pierre Maxted of Keele University, United Kingdom; Andrew Collier-Cameron of the University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom; Leslie Hebb of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.; Don Pollacco of Queen's University, United Kingdom; and Richard West of the University of Leicester, United Kingdom.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, also in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

For more information about Spitzer, visit http://spitzer.caltech.edu or http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer. More information about NASA's search for exoplanets is at http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov.

Chad Binette | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://spitzer.caltech.edu
http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms
17.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

nachricht New functional principle to generate the „third harmonic“
16.02.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Switched-on DNA

20.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Second cause of hidden hearing loss identified

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

Prospect for more effective treatment of nerve pain

20.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>