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Indian finds new breed of exoplanet

world Updated: Dec 10, 2010 02:23 IST

An Indian scientist on Wednesday announced the discovery of a carbon-rich planet, named WASP-12b, orbiting a distant star about 1200 light years away from the earth. This find is the first of a new class of exoplanetss and throws open the possible existence of diamond-studded stars.

Nikku Madhusudhan, a Benares Hindu University alumini, and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently measured the first-ever planetary atmosphere that is substantially enriched in carbon.

"The researchers found that the carbon-to-oxygen ratio of WASP-12b, an exoplanet about 1.4 times the mass of Jupiter and located about 1,200 light years away, is greater than one," Madhusudhan, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University, reported in a publication on Wednesday.

This carbon-rich atmosphere backs the possibility that exoplanets could be made up of pure carbon rocks like diamond or graphite rather than the silica-based rock found in Earth.

WASP-12b is a very hot exoplanet, largely made of gas and has no surface to host life.