'Godzilla of earths': giant planet found by scientists

Jun 3, 2014

Discovery of planet 17 times heavier than Earth raises new hope of finding life elsewhere in the universe

David A. Aguilar / Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Scientists have discovered a giant rocky planet 560 light-years away, and dubbed it the "Godzilla of earths" due to its large size.

The new-found planet, called Kepler-10c, has surprised researchers, who had previously believed that a planet of its size could not exist without drawing in hydrogen and turning into a gas giant similar to Jupiter or Neptune, according to the BBC.

The planet was first spotted in 2011 by astronomers using Nasa's Kepler Space telescope to scour the skies for Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. It was thought to be a gas giant until researchers took a closer look with the Galileo National Telescope in the Canary Islands.

They then established that Kepler-10c was heavier than first expected, and made of dense rock similar to that found on earth.

Scientists say that the discovery raises the chances that life may have existed elsewhere in the universe.

"The age of [Kepler 10-c's] host star is about 11 billion years old, which is early in the evolution of the universe when generations of exploding stars have not had long to make the heavy elements needed to construct rocky planets," the BBC reports.

"Kepler-10c's properties suggest rocky planets may have formed earlier in cosmic history than many thought possible, and that very old star systems should not be ignored in the search for life beyond earth."

Dr Dimitar Sasselov of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics could barely conceal his excitement. "This is the Godzilla of earths," he told the Daily Telegraph. "But unlike the movie monster, Kepler-10c has positive implications for 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."

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