4000 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens, astronomers have discovered a planet made of diamond.
The 3,106.75 carat Cullinan diamond is by far the largest ever discovered. Or, at least, it used to be. It seems that a much – MUCH – bigger diamond has now been found. The lucky owner of the new diamond is … nobody! That’s right, it’s as yet unclaimed and could be yours. All yours! But wait! There’s a problem: the rock is 4,000 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens. Doh!
The big bling was found by a research team led by Professor Matthew Bailes Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne and is actually a planet. According to the press release, this planet is estimated to be somewhat less than 60,000 km across, or about five times the size of the earth and was discovered during a pulsar survey using the 64-metre CSIRO Parkes radio telescope, 380 kilometres West of Sydney Australia.
The planet orbits a fast-spinning pulsar dubbed PSR J1719-1438 – an exceptionally dense object that has about 1.4 times the mass of our sun but is only 20 km across – and is thought to be the remnants of a white dwarf that was stripped down by the pulsar to less than 0.01% of its initial mass.
You may be wondering how the astronomers know the planet is a diamond. The answer, it seems, lies with the radio waves emitted by the pulsar. Bailes and his team noticed that the radio waves were modulated. By studying the modulations, the team was able to deduce that the planet:
- Is 600,000 km away from the pulsar and orbits it in a little over two hours.
- Is less than 60,000 km as, were it any bigger, it would be ripped apart by the pulsar’s gravity.
- Is dense – were it to consist of light elements, it would not orbit in such a short time – and therefore probably crystalline.
“This remnant is likely to be largely carbon and oxygen, because a star made of lighter elements like hydrogen and helium would be too big to fit the measured orbiting times,” said Dr. Michael Keith, one of the research team members.
While this is all very interesting, what I really want to know is … how can I reel this bad boy in? Who’s got an idea?