'Godzilla of Earths' Could Harbor Life

Kepler-10c is massive, old, and rocky—a shocking combination

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 2, 2014 8:00 AM CDT | Updated Jun 2, 2014 7:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – Kepler-10c is a big, rocky planet that may harbor life—but what's most interesting is how big and rocky it is, Space.com reports. An exoplanet about 560 light-years away in the constellation Draco, Kepler-10c was spotted in 2011 and assumed to be gaseous because of its size. But closer inspection showed it was heavy—17 times more than Earth—which meant it was rocky, a development that shocked geophysicists who assumed rocky planets were kept smaller by the compression of gravity, reports New Scientist. "This suggestion of a rocky planet 2.3 times the size of Earth blows me away," said a Kepler team member.

Kepler-10c is also quite old, dating back to about 3 billion years after the Big Bang—a fact that should expand our search for extra-terrestrial 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," said a Harvard astronomer who dubbed the planet "Godzilla of Earths." So is it liveable? Only if there's an atmosphere and clouds to cool things down, because the planet's surface temperature should otherwise be a sizzling 590 Fahrenheit, the Guardian reports. (For more planetary news, read about water vapor spotted on a tiny planet in our solar system.)

An artist's rendering of Kepler-10c and the sun it orbits.
An artist's rendering of Kepler-10c and the sun it orbits.   (Wikimedia Commons)
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