Jupiter-mass diamond found orbiting pulsar

How did the pulsar acquire its exotic companion? And how do we know it's made of diamond?

Pulsar J1719-1438 is a very fast-spinning pulsar-what's called a millisecond pulsar. Amazingly, it rotates more than 10,000 times per minute, has a mass of about 1.4 times that of our Sun but is only 20 km in radius. About 70% of millisecond pulsars have companions of some kind: astronomers think it is the companion that, as a star, 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 white dwarf.

"We know of a few other systems, called ultra-compact low-mass X-ray binaries, that are likely to be evolving according to the scenario above and may likely represent the progenitors of a pulsar like J1719-1438" said Dr. Andrea Possenti, of INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Cagliari.

But pulsar J1719-1438 and its companion are so close together that the companion could only be a very stripped-down white dwarf, one that has lost its outer layers and over 99.9% of its original mass. This remnant is likely to be largely carbon and oxygen, stars of lighter elements like hydrogen and helium just won't fit. The density means that this material is certain to be crystalline: that is, a large part of the star may be similar to a diamond.

"The ultimate fate of the binary is determined by the mass and orbital period of the donor star at the time of mass transfer. The rarity of millisecond pulsars with planet-mass companions means that producing such 'exotic planets' is the exception rather than the rule, and requires special circumstances", said Dr. Benjamin Stappers from the University of Manchester.

Previously, previously, previously.


9 Responses:

  1. Adam says:

    It's companion is composing to it, hundreds of billions of tons of carbon and oxygen at a time.
    Eventually, 2 will become 1.

    Space is so romantic.

  2. David M.A. says:

    More to the point: how do we know Monoliths weren't involved?

  3. DFB says:

    Diamond sounds a lot better than carbonate, doesn't it? It's frustrating when scientists exaggerate.

  4. Landa says:

    Has de Beers made any comment yet?

    • Art Delano says:

      They're not going to say anything. They'll just kill anybody else who approaches the planetoid, while they chip off small chunks and launder the origins by reselling it into their own distribution chain through the black markets in space-Durban.

  5. Brian B says:

    Someone said the inhabitants of the giant diamonds are called Blingons.

  6. Bruce David Smith says:

    by my figuring it wil take 16,000 years to get there inhe space shuttle.

  7. Richard says:

    Diamond planets, climate change and the scientific method

    Recently my colleagues and I announced the discovery of a remarkable planet orbiting a special kind of star known as a pulsar.

    Based on the planet’s density, and the likely history of its system, we concluded that it was certain to be crystalline. In other words, we had discovered a planet made of diamond.

    Following the publication of our finding in the journal Science, our research received amazing attention from the world’s media.

    The diamond planet was featured in Time Magazine, the BBC and China Daily, to name but a few.

    I was asked by many journalists about the significance of the discovery. If I were honest, I’d have to concede that, although worthy of publication in Science, in the field of astrophysics it isn’t that significant.

    Sure, there are probably somewhere between six and a dozen quite important theoretical astrophysicists around the world who would have been thrilled at the news (after all, the diamond planet fills a gap in the binary pulsar family).

    But in the overall scheme of things, it isn’t that important.

    And yet the diamond planet has been hugely successful in igniting public curiosity about the universe in which we live.

    In that sense, for myself and my co-authors, I suspect it will be among the greatest discoveries of our careers.

    Our host institutions were thrilled with the publicity and most of us enjoyed our 15 minutes of fame. The attention we received was 100% positive, but how different that could have been.

    How so? Well, we could have been climate scientists.

    Imagine for a minute that, instead of discovering a diamond planet, we’d made a breakthrough in global temperature projections.

    Let’s say we studied computer models of the influence of excessive greenhouse gases, verified them through observations, then had them peer-reviewed and published in Science.

    Instead of sitting back and basking in the glory, I suspect we’d find a lot of commentators, many with no scientific qualifications, pouring scorn on our findings.


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