This graphic depicts the Jupiter-like planet WASP-12b in front of its central star. Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech / R. Hurt (SSC)
Vorlesen Planet hunters have discovered an unexpectedly carbon-rich exoplanet, which makes the existence of life-friendly celestial bodies with diamond surfaces conceivable. The ratio of carbon to oxygen in the atmosphere of the planet WASP-12b is at least one to one, according to the analyzes of the light emitted by the hot celestial body. In our solar system, this high value is not to be found - for example, the sun has only a corresponding ratio of 0.54, so it contains almost twice as much oxygen as carbon. This discovery suggests that there could be rock planets similar to the Earth, but where the rocks are not made of silicates but of diamond or graphite, the researchers say. According to the researchers, the planet WASP-12b is about 1.4 times the mass of Jupiter and is about 1, 200 light-years from Earth. He is one of the hottest exoplanets ever discovered, for he orbits his central star at a distance that is only one-fortieth of the distance between Earth and Sun. This heats up its surface to over 2, 200 degrees Celsius, explain the researchers. The radiation emitted by the hot planet revealed these temperature conditions as well as its chemical composition.

With these characteristics, WASP-12b belongs to the category of exoplanets called "hot Jupiter". It consists largely of gas and has no surface on which life could exist, the researchers say. However, its carbon-rich composition may be an indication that a previously unknown category of exotic exoplanets exists, perhaps even as previously unknown neighboring planets of WASP-12b: celestial bodies of the order of Earth, but rich in carbon and with a correspondingly exotic surface. Madhusudhan even speculates about possible life on such planets: "There could well be life forms that can do with little water and oxygen and tolerate methane."

Nikku Madhusudhan (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) et al .: Nature, online pre-release, doi: 10.1038 / nature09602 dapd / science.de? Martin Vieweg

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