Is this the biggest rock ever? Astronomers discover planet made of DIAMONDS
By Gareth Finighan
Last updated at 8:22 AM on 26th August 2011
Comments (34)[/*] Add to My Stories[/*] Share[/*][/list]It is certainly what you could call a gem of a discovery.
Astronomers believe they have found an entire planet made of diamonds.
Scientists at the University of Manchester think they have unearthed a once-massive star in the Milky Way that has been transformed into a small planet made of the precious rock.
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Twinkle, twinkle little star: The diamond planet - the shrunken core of a once-huge star - is a chunk of crystallised carbon measuring 40,000 miles across, five times the diameter of Earth The international research team first detected an unusual star, called a pulsar, and followed up their discovery with research using a telescope based in an observatory in Cheshire.
The findings led the scientists to discover the gravitational pull of a small companion planet orbiting the pulsar.
Pulsars are small spinning stars more than ten miles in diameter – the size of a small city – that emit a beam of radio waves.
The companion planet is small, at less than 40,000 miles wide – about five times the diameter of Earth.
But it is so close to the pulsar thatif it were any bigger it would be ripped apart by the gravitational force of the star, which rotates more than 10,000 times per minute and has a mass of about 1.4 times that of the sun.
Precious: The international research team found the diamond planet in our Milky Way (above) after first detecting an unusual star, called a pulsar. They think the planet is all that remains of the original star, most of whose matter was siphoned off towards the pulsar
Research team member Dr Michael Keithsaid: 'This remnant is likely to be largely carbon and oxygen, because astar made of lighter elements like hydrogen and helium would be too bigto fit the measured orbiting times.'
Thedensity means that this material is certain to be crystalline, that is,a large part of the star may be similar to a diamond.
The pulsar, dubbed PSR J1719-1438, and its planet are part ofthe Milky Way's plane of stars and lie 4,000 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens - the Snake.
The modulations in the radio pulses told astronomers a number of things about the planet.
It orbits the pulsar in just two hours and ten minutes, and the distance between the two objects is about 373,000 miles - a little less than the radius of our sun.
Despite its small size, the planet has slightly more mass than Jupiter.
About 70 per cent of millisecond pulsars have companions of some kind.
Astronomers think it is the companion that, in its star form, transforms an old, dead pulsar into a millisecond pulsar by transferring matter and spinning it up to a very high speed.
The result is a fast-spinning millisecond pulsar with a shrunken companion - most often a so-called white dwarf.
The find is reported in the journal Science.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2030138/Is-biggest-rock-Astronomers-believe-entire-planet-diamonds.html#ixzz1W7ia7Ore
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