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Diamond Studded Planet Discovered by U.S. Indian Astronomer Led Team
si Team
Monday, January 3, 2011
Astronomers led by an Indian American have discovered a giant planet with an atmosphere and a core dominated by carbon. Nikku Madhusudan, a Banaras Hindu University (BHU) alumnus who works at Princeton University, New Jersey, and his colleagues have observed that an extremely hot planet discovered last year has a never before seen characteristic of having more carbon than oxygen. They said that this actually raised the prospect that diamond-studded stars may exist.

A computational technique developed two years ago by Madhusudan, while he was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), used to analyze the atmosphere of the planet which orbits a star about 1,200 light-years from Earth. The surface temperature of this planet, named WASP-12b, seems to be 2300°C, which makes it hot enough to melt stainless steel. Madhusudhan, who is now a postdoctoral scientist in the department of astrophysical sciences at Princeton, said that WASP-12b is made largely of gas and only its core contains carbon-based minerals such as diamonds and graphite. This planet was discovered in 2009 by researchers in the UK-based consortium called Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP).

He also added that the structure of this planet might make us rethink our long-ingrained ideas of planetary formation and that with much hotness and no solid surface the planet could not support life. “If life exists on such planets, it has to sustain low oxygen, low water and lots of methane and other hydrocarbons that would be in the atmosphere,” Madhusudhan said. Scientists used U.S. space agency NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to observe light emitted by the planet WASP-12b.
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