Astronomers have discovered a large planet made almost entirely of diamond in space – lying around 4,000 light years away from Earth and circling a small fast spinning star called a pulsar.
The diamond planet is said to consist largely of carbon and is around five times the size of Earth with twenty times the density of that of Jupiter. Scientists believe that with its density, the carbon must be crystalline, effectively turning it into a “diamond planet”.
"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," told Matthew Bailes of Swinburne University of Technology to Reuters.
According to the researchers, the planet is believed to have been once part of a massive star that had lost its outer layers to the so-called pulsar star that it now orbits.
Radio telescope data show that the diamond planet is currently orbiting the pulsar – named J1719-1438 – at a distance of about 370,000 miles, making a year on the planet just two hours long.
According to the International Business Times, the new planet could potentially be the “universe's largest diamond of 1031 carats worth”.
While no plans have been made to mine the planet – mainly due to the challenges of travelling 4,000 light years away – Bailes told Time Magazine that there was a possibility that other “diamond planets” existed in our universe though “this is the only one like it so far.”
Researchers from institutions in the UK, Australia, Germany, Italy and the USA used a variety of radio telescopes — including the Australian Parkes CSIRO, the Lovell in Cheshire and the Keck in Hawaii — and 200,000 Gigabytes of celestial data in discovering the distant pulsar and diamond planet.
However, while scientists can now ascertain the general composition of the diamond planet, most are uncertain on what the planet would actually look like up close.
"In terms of what it would look like, I don't know I could even speculate," said Ben Stappers of the University of Manchester to Reuters. "I don't imagine that a picture of a very shiny object is what we're looking at here."
Discover how scientists discovered the "diamond planet":