Discovered: Unique Planet Completely Made Up of Diamond!

Diamonds are turning out to be more ubiquitous than thought. After we reported that candles burn up diamonds a few days back, we hear of a discovery of a planet, which is completely made up of real diamond. This diamond planet is important in astrophysics, though for a very different reason!

An illustration of what the planet might look like. The yellow circle represents the size of out Sun, for comparison. The entire star-planet system could fit into the sun.

The discovery is too recent for any deep scientific investigation. Astrophysicists think that the planet is actually the core of a star, which died and became a white dwarf. The difference with other white dwarfs in the Universe is that this was orbiting a neutron star.

Lifetime and Death of a Star

A star burns hydrogen, converting it into helium, during its lifetime, known as the main sequence of the star. Once, it runs out of hydrogen it begins to contract, until enough heat builds up to trigger a newer set of reactions, which involves fusing helium to form heavier elements. Once the helium is also snuffed out, the star contracts again. Now, depending on the mass of the star, there might be many such contraction-fusion phases, making higher and higher elements. A mass the size of the Sun will stop somewhere at oxygen and then just settle down, cooling off and becoming a white dwarf. A star with a mass of 1.4 times that of the Sun becomes a neutron star, basically an extremely compact object made up of neutrons. Above 3 solar masses, you get a black hole.

The giant gem!

This new planet is five times the size of Earth with a super-high surface pressure. The extremely high surface pressure leads scientists to suspect that the entire planet has been crystallized into diamond. The planet orbits a rapidly pulsating neutron star that radiates a pulsar. Named PSR J1719-1438, the pulsar has a rotation rate of 10000 rotations per minute! It is located at a distance of 4000 light years from Earth!

All that sparkles… also pulsates

This system is not only interesting for being the biggest piece of diamond known! This is only the second time such a system, i.e. one which involves white dwarf orbiting a pulsar, has been discovered. The planet is also larger than the star’, as generally white dwarfs are bigger than neutron stars in size.

So there is another piece of diamond that you’ll never get your hands on! Thank your pulsars that no one else is getting it either!

Published by

Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.