This is really cool. Astronomers have discovered a planet made largely of carbon that happens to be fairly dense. What form of carbon is fairly dense, diamonds. So, evidently this is a planet with a crystalline structure.
The new planet is far denser than any other known so far and consists largely of carbon. Because it is so dense, scientists calculate the carbon must be crystalline, so a large part of this strange world will effectively be diamond.
“The evolutionary history and amazing density of the planet all suggest it is comprised of carbon — i.e. a massive diamond orbiting a neutron star every two hours in an orbit so tight it would fit inside our own Sun,” said Matthew Bailes of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne
A neutron star is a stellar remnant that is very massive but very small so it is very, very dense. A star twice as massive as our sun compressed down to about the size of a city.
Pulsars are tiny, dead neutron stars that are only around 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) in diameter and spin hundreds of times a second, emitting beams of radiation.
In the case of pulsar J1719-1438, the beams regularly sweep the Earth and have been monitored by telescopes in Australia, Britain and Hawaii, allowing astronomers to detect modulations due to the gravitational pull of its unseen companion planet.
The measurements suggest the planet, which orbits its star every two hours and 10 minutes, has slightly more mass than Jupiter but is 20 times as dense, Bailes and colleagues reported in the journal Science on Thursday.
It would be wonderful to send a probe to this planet to get some pictures but it is too far away, about 8000 light-years away. Too bad.
- ScienceShot: Diamond Planet Orbits a Pulsar (news.sciencemag.org)
- Astrophile: The diamond as big as a planet (newscientist.com)
- Discovered: Unique Planet Completely Made Up of Diamond! (techie-buzz.com)