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New 'Godzilla of Earths' planet discovered about 560 light-years from Earth

The "mega-Earth" weighs 17 times as much as Earth.
By Evan Bleier   |   June 2, 2014 at 3:07 PM  |  Updated June 2, 2014 at 4:46 PM   |   Comments

BOSTON, June 2 (UPI) -- Researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have discovered a new planet about 560 light-years away in the Draco constellation that weighs 17 times as much as Earth.

Exoplanet Kepler-10c, which has been dubbed the "Godzilla of Earths" and "mega-Earth," has a rocky surface and it circles a star which resembles the sun.

"This is the Godzilla of Earths!" the CfA's Dimitar Sasselov said in a statement, according to Space.com. "But unlike the movie monster, Kepler-10c has positive implications for life. Finding Kepler-10c tells us that rocky planets could form much earlier than we thought. And if you can make rocks, you can make life."

The discovery of the planet was presented at the 224th American Astronomical Society meeting.

Due to its size, researchers initially assumed that Kepler-10c was a gaseous planet, but they were able to use the HARPS-North instrument on the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo to determine that "mega-Earth" is rocky.

"Kepler-10c didn't lose its atmosphere over time. It's massive enough to have held onto one if it ever had it," said CfA astronomer Xavier Dumusque. "It must have formed the way we see it now."

According to scientists, the Kepler-10c system formed less than three billion years after the big bang.

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