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55 Cancri e (abbreviated 55 Cnc e) is an extrasolar planet orbiting the Sun-like star 55 Cancri A. Its mass is about 7.8 Earth masses and its diameter is about twice that of Earth's,[1] thus classifying it as the first Super-Earth discovered around a main sequence star, predating Gliese 876 d by a year. It takes less than 18 hours to complete an orbit and is the innermost known planet in its planetary system. 55 Cancri e was discovered on August 30, 2004. However, until the 2010 observations and recalculations, this planet had been thought to take about 2.8 days to orbit the star.[2] In October 2012, it was announced that 55 Cancri e could be a carbon planet.[3][4]


Like the majority of known extrasolar planets (found previous to the Kepler mission), 55 Cancri e was discovered by detecting variations in its star's radial velocity. This was achieved by making sensitive measurements of the Doppler shift of the spectrum of 55 Cancri A. At the time of its discovery, three other planets were known orbiting the star. After accounting for these planets, a signal at around 2.8 days remained, which could be explained by a planet of at least 14.2 Earth masses in a very close orbit.[5] The same measurements were used to confirm the existence of the uncertain planet 55 Cancri c.

55 Cancri e was one of the first extrasolar planets with a mass comparable to that of Neptune to be discovered. It was announced at the same time as another "hot Neptune" orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 436 named Gliese 436 b.

Planet challengedEdit

In 2005 the existence of planet e was questioned by Jack Wisdom in a reanalysis of the data: according to him, instead of the 2.8-day planet there is a planet with a mass similar to that of Neptune in a 261-day orbit around 55 Cancri A.[6] In 2007, Debra Fischer and colleagues at San Francisco State University published a new analysis[7] indicating that both planets existed; the planet in the 260-day orbit was accordingly designated 55 Cancri f.

Transit Edit

The planet's transit of its primary was announced on April 27, 2011, based on two weeks of nearly continuous photometric monitoring with the MOST space telescope.[8] The transits occur with the period (0.74 days) and phase that had been predicted by Dawson & Fabrycky. This is one of the few planetary transits to be confirmed around a well-known star, and allowed investigations into the planet's composition.

Orbit and massEdit

The radial velocity method used to detect 55 Cancri e obtains the minimum mass of 7.8 times that of Earth,[1] or 48% of the mass of Neptune. The transit shows that its inclination is about 83.4 ± 1.7. So the real mass is close to the minimum. 55 Cancri e is further coplanar with b.


55 Cancri e receives more radiation than Gliese 436 b.[9] The side of the planet facing its star has temperatures more than 2,000 Kelvin(more than 3,140 Fahrenheit), hot enough to melt metal.[10]

It was initially unknown whether 55 Cancri e was a small gas giant like Neptune or a large rocky terrestrial planet. In 2011, a transit of the planet was confirmed, allowing scientists to calculate its density. At first it was suspected to be a water planet.[8][1] As initial observations showed no hydrogen in its Lyman-alpha signature during transit, Ehrenreich mused that its volatiles might be carbon dioxide instead of water or hydrogen.[11]

An alternative possibility is that 55 Cancri e is a solid planet made of carbon-rich material rather than the oxygen-rich material that makes up the terrestrial planets in our solar system.[12] In this case, roughly a third of the planet's mass would be carbon, much of which may be in the form of diamond as a result of the temperatures and pressures in the planet's interior. Further observations are necessary to confirm the nature of the planet.[3][4]

See alsoEdit

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Oozing Super-Earth: Images of Alien Planet 55 Cancri e. (20 January 2012). Retrieved on 2012-01-21.
  2. (1 March 2008)"Five Planets Orbiting 55 Cancri". The Astrophysical Journal 675 (1): 790–801. DOI:10.1086/525512.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Wickham, Chris, "A diamond bigger than Earth?", 21 October 2012. Retrieved on 26 October 2012.
  4. 4.0 4.1 (10 November 2012)"A Possible Carbon-rich Interior in Super-Earth 55 Cancri e". The Astrophysical Journal Letters 759 (2). DOI:10.1088/2041-8205/759/2/L40.
  5. (10 October 2004)"Detection of a NEPTUNE-mass planet in the ρ1 Cancri system using the Hobby-Eberly Telescope". The Astrophysical Journal Letters 614 (1). DOI:10.1086/425561.
  6. Wisdom, Jack (May 2005). "A Neptune-Sized Planet in the ρ1 Cancri System". Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 37.
  7. Minkel, J.R., "Record Fifth Planet Discovered Around Distant Star", November 6, 2007.
  8. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named winn11
  9. (2007). "Planetpol polarimetry of the exoplanet systems 55 Cnc and τ Boo". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 393 (1): 229–244. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.14182.x.
  10. Science@NASA. NASA Space Telescope Sees the Light from an Alien Super-Earth. NASA. Retrieved on 2012-05-10.
  11. (October 2, 2012)"Hint of a transiting extended atmosphere on 55 Cancri b". Astronomy & Astrophysics 547. DOI:10.1051/0004-6361/201219981.
  12. "Nearby Super-Earth Likely a Diamond Planet", 11 October 2012. Retrieved on 11 October 2012.

External links Edit

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