Astronomers Make A 'Gem' Of A Discovery - A Diamond Planet
Just a few weeks ago, NASA's Kepler Spacecraft revealed a dark alien planet - Now, a collaboration of scientists from all over the world have announced something even more exciting - A diamond planet!
But before you get your drilling gear ready, bear in mind that the precious planet is 4,000 light years away or about an eighth of the way toward the center of the Milky Way, from Earth.
The only reason the astronomers were even able to spot it was because of the pulsar star it rotates around. Pulsars are small spinning stars that measure about 20km in diameter and emit a beam of radio waves that can be detected by sophisticated satellite telescopes on Earth. If they have a companion planet, which occurs only 1% of the time, the waves get interrupted thanks to the gravitational pull of the planet, as it rotates around its star.
When the international team of scientists from Australia that was monitoring the pulsar, which they call J1719-1438, noticed the modulations, they decided to investigate further using a special telescope in Cheshire, UK.
Based on modulations caused by the companion planet, they were able to determine that it is relatively small - about 60,000km in diameter and rotates around its pulsar planet from a similar distance - Any closer, and it would have been decimated by its star.
However, despite the small size, its density is much greater than that of Jupiter, which sports about double the diameter. This, and the fact that it can orbit its pulsar star in a speedy 2 hours and 10 minutes, has led to several interesting conclusions about its origin and composition.
The astronomers believe that the 'diamond' planet was once a massive star - A companion to the pulsar J1719-1438. However, as the two came closer, it caused the pulsar to start spinning at extremely high speeds, which in turn, resulted in scraping off not only all the outer layers of the 'diamond' star, but also, 99.9% of its original mass.
Today, all that remains is a carbon-based core that the researchers believe is made of a crystalline structure similar to that of diamonds - Hence the nickname 'diamond planet' - Wonder what they will find next - Maybe a gold one? I sure hope so!