Astronomers Have Discovered Earth-Like Planets That May Have Plentiful Rubies and Sapphires

Friday, 21 December 2018 - 12:41PM
Space
Astronomy
Friday, 21 December 2018 - 12:41PM
Astronomers Have Discovered Earth-Like Planets That May Have Plentiful Rubies and Sapphires
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MaxPixel
When Goldman Sachs declared that the first trillionaire would make their money in mining asteroids (like Psyche 16, a space rock estimated to be worth roughly $700 quintillion), we doubt they had anything like this in mind: according to a new study, astronomers have identified a collection of super-Earths that may be filled with enough sapphires and rubies to make anyone comically rich.

A "super-Earth" is dense and rocky like our planet, but much larger in size. The subjects of this new research are  HD 219134 b, 55 Cancri e, and WASP-47 e, which range from 21 to 870 light-years away. None of them have orbits longer than 3 days (in fact, the latter two orbit their star in about 18 hours), which means all of them are very, very close to their respective stars. These planets have an abundance of aluminum and calcium, which could mean that they have a lot of corundum, the mineral that rubies and sapphires are made from.

Apart from the fact that these planets may be hosts to a whole lot of gemstones, researchers are fascinated with their formation and internal structure. "What's exciting is that these objects are completely different from the majority of Earth-like planets," says Caroline Dorn of the University of Zurich. One of the big differences is that these planets may not have cores—due to the strange way they formed, they might not have undergone the same process as other Earth-like planets, leaving them core-less and 10-20% less dense.

Astronomy fans may recognize 55 Cancri e as the planet that was claimed to be made of diamond. According to this research, that's probably not true—there's just not enough carbon on that planet. On the other hand, Dorn thinks one of these other super-Earths may be the real deal: "Perhaps [HD 219134 b] shimmers red to blue like rubies and sapphires."
Science
NASA
Space
Astronomy
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