This Massive Super Earth Is Almost As Old As the Universe

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In the ever-growing hunt for exoplanets, astronomers have recently discovered that one of the oldest stars in the Milky Way actually hosts a hot, rocky ‘Super-Earth’... when it shouldn’t.
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Credit: W. M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko

Following the Big Bang, scientists suspect that the universe solely consisted of lightweight elements, like hydrogen, helium and traces of lithium. Meaning that only gaseous planets could be formed in the early Universe. So, it’s no surprise that everyone’s jaw literally hit the floor when scientists found a 10 billion year old star hosting a rocky planet.

The star is known as the creative name TOI-561, and the planet? TOI-561b. This host star / planet pairing is a bit of an anomaly because the two are found in a structure of the Milky Way known as the thick disk. With the help of data collected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, astronomers estimate the thick disk to be about 10 billion years old.

In order to form a rocky planet, heavier elements like carbon, iron, and even magnesium are needed. Heavier elements weren't originally thought to have formed until the first stars did, roughly 200 million years after the Big Bang. These metals are formed through fusion reactions in the hearts of stars, then expelled when a star dies in a supernova explosion. Once released into the universe, the elements can continue the great circle of at least, from a star's perspective.

#space #galaxy #universe #milkyway #astronomy #superearth #seeker #science #elements

Read More:

Rogue Rocky Planet Found Adrift in the Milky Way

"Not all planets orbit stars. Some are instead “free-floating” rogues adrift in interstellar space after being ejected from their home systems."

Astronomers Find an Astonishing 'Super-Earth' That's Nearly as Old as The Universe

"Around one of the galaxy's oldest stars, an orange dwarf named TOI-561 just 280 light-years away, astronomers have found three orbiting exoplanets - one of which is a rocky world times the size of Earth, whipping around the star on a breakneck orbit."

Milky Way’s Thick Disk is 10 Billion Years Old, Astronomers Say

"Using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, astronomers have calculated that the thick disk is about 10 billion years old."

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