“Diamond Planet” Found Just Outside the Solar System

November 23, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. estimate (v.) 
[es-tuh-meyt; es-tuh-mit, -meyt] – to guess the amount, size, weight, or cost of something
Example: Scientists estimate that there are billions of planets with water like the Earth.

2. constellation (n.) [kon-stuh-ley-shuhn] – a group of stars that form a certain pattern or shape http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constellation
Example: The constellation of Cancer looks like a crab.

3. resemble (v.) [ri-zem-buhl] – be similar to, have similar characteristics with
Example: The blue color of planet Neptune resembles the color of Earth’s blue oceans.

4. makeup (n.) [meyk-uhp] – the combination of things or ingredients inside something or someone
Example: The makeup of water is hydrogen and oxygen.

5. formation (n.) [fawr-mey-shuhn] – the process by which something is made or created (formed)
Example: According to the Big Bang theory, a large explosion caused the formation of stars and planets.

Read the text below.

A team of French and American scientists has found a planet just outside the solar system that may be composed of diamond and graphite. The scientists estimate that at least one third (1/3) of the planet is made of diamond.

It was named “55 Cancri e” because it orbits or moves around a star called “55 Cancri” in the constellation of Cancer.

55 Cancri is a star that closely resembles Earth’s sun. The star is also very near Earth that it can be seen by the naked eye or without the use of telescopes.

The planet 55 Cancri e was first discovered in 2004.  Using computer modeling technology, scientists were recently able to estimate that it is twice the size of the Earth.

At first, astronomers thought 55 Cancri e was similar to Earth and was filled with super-heated water.

However, according to Nikku Madhusudhan, a researcher from Yale University, new research suggests that 55 Cancri e may not have water at all. Instead, it is made of carbon material, such as diamond, graphite, iron, or silicon carbide. In contrast, Earth is rich in oxygen and has little carbon.

Researchers believe there may have been very little ice water available during the formation of planet 55 Cancri e, which led to the planet’s unique diamond and graphite makeup.

The discovery challenges previous assumptions of scientists, says Madhusudhan.  Now, scientists think that not all rocky planets have a similar makeup as Earth, Mars, or Venus. Planets outside the solar system may be made of very different chemical properties.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Is the discovery of a diamond-covered planet important? Why or why not?
·         Do you think studying planets or stars very far away from Earth is beneficial? What makes you say so?

Discussion B

·         What kind of planets do you think scientists will discover in the future?
·         Do you believe that life exists in other planets just like in Earth? Why or why not?


November 23, 2012