Exoplanet Watch: The Diamond Planet

Experts have been studying and theorizing about a distant planet call 55 Cancri E, which has a sparklingly intriguing composition.

55 Cancri E isn’t a name familiar with most. It doesn’t necessarily roll-off the tongue, but if you consider its potential value, it might get a few visitors in the distant future. The planet has an unusual composition and is suspected of being a covered in pure diamonds. I am not talking about a few diamond mines here and there; I mean a third of the planet, which is twice the size of Earth, being made of pure diamond. Scientists still debate how this came into being, but the most common theory is that 55 Cancri E was once a star in a binary system. Its buddy then began to consume it and left just a lump of big carbon. We all know that if you apply enough heat and pressure, carbon turns into diamond and the surface temperature of 55 Cancri E is calculated to be around 1650 degrees Celsius. You wouldn’t need a winter jacket if you visited.

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How much is it worth?

The World Bank estimated back in 2011 that the global GDP is around 70 trillion dollars. That sounds like a pretty unimaginable chunk of wealth; but it is nothing compared to how valuable 55 Cancri E could be. At current diamond prices, researchers have estimated that the diamond planet would be worth $26.9 nonillion ($26.9 followed by 30 zeros). What’s more, .0182% of the planets resources could clear our global debt of $49 trillion held by governments across Earth. That’s 269,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

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Where do we know about the planet?

55 Cancri E is located in the northern constellation, Cancer, which is, galactically speaking, relatively close to us and could be somewhere scientists send probes in the future. It takes fewer than 18 hours to complete an orbit and is the innermost known planet in its planetary system. 55 Cancri E was discovered on 30 August 2004 (My birthday!). However, until the 2010 observations and recalculations, this planet had been thought to take about 2.8 days to orbit the star.

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The rest of the planet is thought to be made of graphite and silicates, so there isn’t much chance of life on the planet to defend their resources. I am certainly no economist, but I can envisage that if we ever travelled to 55 Cancri E and retrieved an island-sized lump of pure diamond, the global prices would slump. Unfortunately it is also located around 40 light-years away and would take a pretty long time to reach.

That’s the thing about space; everything is so bloody far away!  

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