Friday, August 26, 2011

Scientists discover the diamond planet made of diamond

Astronomers have spotted an exotic planet that seems to be made of diamond racing around a tiny star in our galactic backyard. Scientists have discovered the planet that they believe is made of diamond.

The international team, which includes Australian scientists, believes the "diamond planet" is the only remnant left from what was a huge star in our own Milky Way galaxy.

The pulsar and its planet are part of the Milky Way's plane
of stars and lie 4000 light-years away in the constellation
of Serpens

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 star, discovered in 2009, has become a pulsar - the dead remnant with about a diameter of 20km that emits beams of electromagnetic radiation.

It was detected by researchers from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, led by Professor Matthew Bailes, using the Parkes radio telescope in central NSW.

A month later, they noticed the pulses were consistently interrupted - a sign of something in orbit around the pulsar. That was later confirmed with other powerful telescopes in Britain and the United States.

The research has been published in the international journal, Science, and is only the third time one of the 1800-odd known pulsars have been found to harbour planets.

"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.

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