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New planet alert! Scientists discover "mega-Earth"

 

A rocky planet weighing 17 times as much as Earth has been found, surprising astronomers who expected it to be a big ball of gas.

Scientists dubbed the planet a “mega-Earth” because its much larger than previously discovered rocky celestial bodies.

The planet, sighted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Kepler spacecraft, is located 560 light years from Earth and circles a Sun-like star every 45 days.

"Godzilla of Earths"

The finding was reported Monday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston.

“This is the Godzilla of Earths!” said Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics researcher Dimitar Sasselov in a statement. “But unlike the movie monster, Kepler-10c has positive implications for life.”

According to Forbes, this "confounds current understanding of planet formation, which tells us that such a massive planet should attract tons of hydrogen gas to itself, transforming it into a gas giant in the mold of Jupiter or Saturn". 

The new planet is in a system about 11 billion years old, forming less than 3 billion years after the Big Bang, according to the report Monday. The Earth is about 4.54 billion years old.

The news comes after NASA announced its discovery of the first potentially habitable Earth-sized planet, called Kepler-186f, in April. 

Sources: Washington Post, Forbes.com, NASA