A planet has been emitting mysterious signals for two decades – and scientists have figured out a possible explanation.
The planet, called 55 Cancri e, was discovered in 2004.
It’s named after the star that it orbits, 55 Cancri.
Apparently, the planet’s so close to its star, it completes an entire orbit in just 17 hours.
Pretty incredible – but what’s even more incredible is that analysis suggests the planet could be made out of diamond.
“This is our first glimpse of a rocky world with a fundamentally different chemistry from Earth,” Yale University‘s Nikku Madhusudhan said.
“The surface of this planet is likely covered in graphite and diamond rather than water and granite.”
It’s entirely possible that as much as a third of the planet’s mass is made up of solid diamond.
Aside from being made of diamond, another interesting thing about 55 Cancri e are the mysterious signals it’s been emitting.
For decades, scientists have struggled to find an explanation for them.
That was until now.
One theory they have is that the planet is continually shedding and growing its atmosphere.
How’s that possible? Well, scientists believe volcanoes could be opening up, spewing hot gases over the surface of the planet forming a new atmosphere.
That being said, the high temperatures caused by the planet’s extremely close orbit will cause the atmosphere to be burnt off.
This effectively leaves the planet ‘bald’ to space, but the process repeats again, and again, according to a new paper.
Apparently, when the planet is ‘bald’, no visible light comes from it, however, when is has more atmosphere visible light, the signals start to be detected again.
As mentioned, this is just a theory – but scientists could put it to the test.
They could do this by continually measuring the temperature and pressure of the planet’s atmosphere.
This would essentially prove if the planet has a permanent atmosphere, or it it’s continually shedding and regrowing it.
Doing so might also explain why the planet is sending out a mysterious signal, which scientists have so far struggled to explain.