The diamond planet

Swinburne Astronomy Productions

Attention DeBeers and other diamond miners.

There’s a planet out there made entirely of diamonds just waiting to be plundered.

There’s only one problem though it’s 4,000 light years away. 

Astronomically speaking it is right in our back yard.  It’s also an eighth of the way towards the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way in the constellation Serpens (the snake). 

An international team of astronomers led by Matthew Bailes from the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia made the discovery that was published on Aug. 25 in the Journal Science of a small diamond planet that was once a massive star.

The discovery was made when astronomers found a pulsar known as J1719-1438 and its companion diamond planet.

 A pulsar is about the size of a small city at 20 km in diameter.  Like a light house it is a beacon in the sky.  As it spins, instead of sweeping out a beam of light it emits radio waves that are picked up by radio telescopes back on Earth.

The newly discovered pulsar spins rapidly. An unbelievable 10,000 times a minute and is known as a millisecond pulsar. Astronomers noticed that the signals were modulated indicating the gravitational pull of a small companion planet orbiting the pulsar.

The diamond planet makes a complete orbit around the pulsar in two hours and 10 minutes and is 20 times as massive as Jupiter. Its outer layers have been stripped and comprised mostly of carbon and oxygen.

The pulsar at the center of the image is orbited by an object that is about the mass of Jupiter and composed primarily of carbon; effectively a massive diamond. The orbit, represented by the dashed line, would easily fit inside our Sun, represented by the yellow surface.  The blue lines represent the radio signal from the pulsar, which spins around 175 times every second.

 You can watch a video of the discovery at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uTlygM7c-s

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About Mario Carr

Mario Carr has a Physics degree from McMaster University and hosts this blog. He is the director of public education for the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers and has helped to raise the profile of the group. He writes an astronomy column and appears on CHCH-TV to talk about the night sky. Mario is the founder of the Carr Marketing Group in Burlington, Ontario and can help with your marketing, communications, publicity and public relations needs. He can be reached at www.carrmarketinggroup.com or mariocarr@cogeco.ca.
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One Response to The diamond planet

  1. Pingback: The diamond planet (via The sky this month) « Loopy's Expressions

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