It sounds like something straight out of a Jack Kirby story but nonetheless scientists in Australia believe that they have discovered a diamond five times the size of Earth, orbiting a distant star.
It began when astronomers discovered a neutron star about 4,000 lightyears away in the constellation Serpens. A neutron star is a star which has collapsed under its own gravity to produce an object which is both tiny (in this case just 12.4 miles in diameter) and incredibly dense. What’s interesting about this particular neutron star however is what’s orbiting around it: a carbon based planet more dense than any previously discovered. Due to the density of the object it is thought that the carbon must be crystallised meaning that large sections of the planet are probably comprised of pure diamond!
This whole drama is played out in an orbit so tight it could fit inside our own sun!
The likely explanation is that the planet was once a white dwarf star which got caught in the pull of the neutron star. The neutron fed on the mass of its neighbour, accelerating as it did so until the dwarf star was all but consumed. At some point however, rather than completely merging with the hungry neutron, the dwarf moved to a safe distance and entered a stable orbit around it. Unable to perform fusion reactions the dwarf was left with only a dead, solid core, now classified as a planet…a diamond planet!
The good news about this is that given 8,000 years and a big tow-truck we should be able to totally solve our economic problems! The better news is that I now have an excuse to post this video of Brian Cox explaining pulsars.