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Published:June 21st, 2013 15:26 EST
Galaxy's Most Valuable Planet: It's Made of Diamonds!

Galaxy's Most Valuable Planet: It's Made of Diamonds!

By Darden Adams

Scientists at NASA say they may have discovered evidence of a carbon planet, which up until now has only been a hypothetical possibility. The distant world, called 55 Cancri e, is roughly twice the size of our own planet, but contains 8.4 times as much mass, making it incredibly dense. Computer models, using the planet`s size and diameter as inputs, indicate that it could be one third comprised of pure diamond.

Carbon planets were first imagined by Marc Kuchner, a NASA scientist specializing in extra solar planetary systems, as an alternative to the familiar silicon-oxygen planets of our solar system. Planetary systems form around young stars from the left over dust that their star did not consume, so typically all the planets and stars in a solar system share a similar chemical makeup. 

In a system such as ours, the most common compounds are derived from oxygen and silicone, but what if a star system were comprised of carbon derivatives instead? Dr. Kuchner and his colleagues hypothesized that such a planet is theoretically possible, given a large abundance of carbon, and that such a world might have layers of diamond miles thick encircling it. 

No such system had been discovered, however, until the Spitzer Space Telescope was pointed at the 55 Cancri system. Analyzing the wavelength of light reaching us from the star, scientist determined that it contained an unusually large amount of carbon. Since planets in a solar system are generally similar to their star in makeup, this allows scientists to make the assumption that 55 Cancri e may indeed be a carbon planet. 

If the planet is in fact carbon based, it may have one or more thick layers of diamond deep below an outer crust most likely made of graphite. Expeditions to collect the precious stones are, however, out of the question. At 40 light years from earth, reaching this motherlode would be the first obstacle, followed by the fact that the planet`s surface temperature is estimated to be around 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit. Tough luck space miners!