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A huge, ultra-hot alien planet boasts surprising amounts of carbon, a new study reveals, suggesting that worlds beyond our own solar system may be far more diverse than scientists had imagined.

Researchers determined that large quantities of carbon swirl about in the atmosphere of the gas giant planet WASP-12b, making it the first carbon-rich world ever discovered.

The finding should change how astronomers think about planet diversity and formation, as well as the search for extraterrestrial life, researchers said. There may be carbon-rich rocky planets out there, for example, with mountains made of graphite or diamond. [Illustration of the carbon-rich alien planet]

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