Godzilla of Earths – The Kepler-10c

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The discovery of Kepler-10c, dubbed the Godzilla of earths, by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is rewriting history as it is known. Discovered in 2011 with the help of the Kepler Space Telescope housed by NASA, the Kepler-10c is theoretically the planet that should never exist. The telescope, which aids in the search for exoplanets, helped predict the size and orbital period of the planet in 2011. With recent studies analyzing its chemical structure, its unique mass, calculated with the help of the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS)-North instrument on the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands, is of scientific interest.

When astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics discovered Kepler -10c in 2011, it was previously unknown to the field of astronomy. The Godzilla of earths, also called a mega-earth, has not shown signs of supporting life forms, although it is similar to the Earth. At a distance of about 560 light-years from the Earth, the rocky planet has a larger diameter of 18,000 miles and weighs 17 times more. Kepler-10c, in the Draco constellation, is 2.3 times the size of the Earth, and takes 45 days to orbit its star.

An exception to the popular hypothesis of gaseous giant planets, Kepler-10c is making waves in the field of theoretical astrophysics. It was previously theorized that an astronomical body of massive proportions simply could not exist in space unless it was made of gas. With a mass 17 times heavier than the earth, it is expected that the Kepler-10c’s rocky surface would contribute to its heavy weight. Early theories suggested that the Kepler-10c, like Jupiter, a gas giant, had an atmosphere that was made up of helium and hydrogen. If  Jupiter and Neptune grew in size due to the rocky surface, they would self-destruct. Disproving the theory, Kepler-10c is making astronomers rethink the science of space, and improve upon it based on exceptions such as this.

Kepler-10 system, formed less than 3 billion years after the Big Bang, is starting to look like concrete proof that there is more to the universe than what has been discovered in the past two centuries. The early universe was assumed to be made up of helium and hydrogen, and a rarity of elements that made up rock-like surfaces. With this assumption alone, the Kepler-1oc could have supported life forms since its formation. Dimitar Sasselov, the director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, and an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, dubbed Kepler-10c the “Godzilla of earths.” In an interview with Discovery News, Sasselov said that the Kepler-10c has initial positive signs for life support, adding that the planet was a solid piece of evidence to motivate theorists to make apt improvisations. He stated that rocky planets like Kepler-10c could have formed life earlier than expected – a theory which still needs to be proved. The discovery of Kepler-10c has also led to the discovery of mega-earths, a relatively new feature in space.

With temperatures almost four times higher than Jupiter, the possibility of life on the Kepler-10c is negligible. The exceptional discovery of the Godzilla of earths, the Kepler-10c, however, is a testament to the constant fluidity that is science.

By Rathan Paul Harshavardan

Science News