Kepler-10c: Astronomers Find Mega-Earth


This is an artist’s impression of Kepler-10c. Image credit: David A. Aguilar / Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Kepler-10c was originally spotted by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope in May 2011.

Astronomers using the HARPS-North instrument on the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands have found that the extrasolar planet Kepler-10c, once thought to be a gas giant, is actually a ‘mega-Earth.’

The planet lies in the constellation Draco, about 564 light-years away, and circles its host star, Kepler-10, once every 45 days. The system also hosts another previously known exoplanet, Kepler-10b.

Kepler-10c was known to have a diameter of about 29,000 km, about 2.3 times as large as Earth. This suggested it fell into a category of planets known as mini-Neptunes.

But Dr Xavier Dumusque from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and his collagues have found that Kepler-10c has a mass about 17 times that of Earth – far more than expected. This shows that the exoplanet must have a dense composition of rocks and other solids.




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