A newly discovered alien planet that formed from a dead star is a real diamond in the rough.
The super-high pressure of the planet, which orbits a rapidly pulsing neutron star, has likely caused the carbon within it to crystallize into an actual diamond, a new study suggests.
The composition of the planet, which is about five times the size of Earth, is not its only outstanding feature.
This illustration shows the alien planet around pulsar PSR J1719-1438, where ultra-high pressures caused carbon to crystallize in the remnant of a dead star. The planet is made of diamond and orbits a dense pulsing star with a radius smaller than that of our sun. CREDIT: Swinburne Astronomy Productions
The planet’s parent star is a special kind of flashing star known as a millisecond pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star formed from a supernova. The entire system, which is only the second of its kind ever discovered, is located about 4,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Serpens (The Snake).
A gem of a find
Seventy percent of millisecond pulsars found have a companion, which provides additional energy to ramp up the pulsars’ rapid rotation. Generally, this companion is a dying star called a white dwarf; more than 180 millisecond pulsars have been found with white dwarfs over the years.
The only planet known to be orbiting in such a system was detected in 1992 — until now."The pulsar was found in December 2009," lead scientist Matthew Bailes of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, told SPACE.com via email."We’ve been on the trail of the companion ever since."