New Diamond Planet Discovered

If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, I wonder how Miss Monroe would feel about an entire gem planet.

Scientists believe they have found just that approximately 4,000 light years away from Earth, located in the Serpens constellation of our galaxy.  This new planet is believed to be a lasting piece of a large star that at one point lost its outermost layers to the pulsar star that it circles.

Pulsar stars are uncommon “tiny dead neutron star[s] that spins around hundreds of times a second and emits beams of radiation.”   These tracks of radiation are then studied and measured by tools on the ground. When scientists using the Parkes Radio Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, studied this particular pulsar, J1719-1438, they spotted a noticeable irregularity in its orbit.  This suggested that perhaps there was another object orbiting this now dead star.  

As it turns out, there was.

The planet, referred to as PSR J1719-1438, orbits this pulsar about every two hours and 10 minutes.  This is a very condensed track—one that would be tight enough to fit inside our sun.  Its make up, however, is what everyone is talking about. “The planet is likely to be largely carbon and oxygen,” explains Michael Keith of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science, “because a star made of lighter elements like hydrogen and helium would be too big to fit the measured orbiting times.”

It is estimated that the diamond planet has a larger mass than Jupiter but is 20 times denser.  Matthew Bailes of the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne: “The evolutionary history and amazing density of the planet all suggest that it is comprised of carbon—i.e. a massive diamond orbiting a neutron star.”

Submit all that carbon to huge amounts of pressure, and you get one fat diamond.  And “big” would be a great understatement.  Measuring up to 60,000 km all the way across, it is estimated to have a diameter five times the length of Earth’s and is 300 times heavier.  

But even outside of the spectacle that this brings, scientists all over the world wonder whether it is possible to have multiple diamond planets spread across our own Milky Way galaxy. The answer is still up in the air. “Maybe,” Bailes responded, “This is the only one like it so far.”

As it turns out, this is a very rare event—out of the 1,800 pulsars known and studied only two were known to have objects orbiting around them.  And out of these two, this diamond planet is the first.  It reminds us that even after studying a multitude of one thing, there can still be that diamond in the rough (obvious, I know–but I had to take it).

The next step would be to try and catch a glimpse of this planet.  Ben Stappers at the University of Manchester muses, “In terms of what it would look like, I don’t know I could even speculate.  I don’t imagine that a picture of a very shiny object is what we’re looking at here.”

There is plenty of time to get our checkbooks ready. 

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