Monday, August 29, 2011

Diamonds in the sky, 08.29.11

Apparently stars can turn into diamonds—entire planets of diamond. One such planet has just recently been discovered.
*Not an actual photograph, sorry, just in case the orbital track didn't give it away :)
This is just an artist's concept of the system.
According to Matthew Bailes of the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, in 2009 a millisecond pulsar was detected in the constellations Serpens, but its elusive orbiting neighbor had yet to be spotted until recently.
Let us back up for a moment first. We have talked about pulsars a lot in the past, but what is a millisecond pulsar? Like a regular pulsar, it rotates very quickly. Millisecond pulsars leave normal pulsars in the dust, though. This particular millisecond pulsar, designated J1719-1438, completely rotates over 10,000 times in a minute. It is only 12 miles in diameter, but it is still 1.4 times more massive than our own sun.
The entire system is so compact, that the distance for the pulsar at which the diamond planet orbits is still actually within the measure of our own sun’s diameter! The astronomers studying the system believe that the diamond planet used to be a white dwarf star, and that it went through as much fusion as it could until all that was left at its center was diamond. 
So how big is this galactic diamond? Oh, only 37,300 miles in diameter. Yeah, that is five times the size of Earth, people—a solid diamond five times the size of Earth! We can only imagine what other literal treasures the cosmos holds in store.
Credit: NASA. Image credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions.

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