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Space Science

The Galaxy's Largest Diamond 364

unassimilatible writes "The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reports 'to impress your favorite lady this Valentine's Day, get her the galaxy's largest diamond.' A newly discovered cosmic diamond is a chunk of crystallized carbon 50 light-years from the Earth in the constellation Centaurus. It is 2,500 miles across and weighs 5 million trillion trillion pounds, which translates to approximately 10 billion trillion trillion carats, or a one followed by 34 zeros. A cheesy, unrealistic simulation is also available. AP has a story as well."
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The Galaxy's Largest Diamond

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  • Largest diamond? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:09AM (#8278267)
    > A newly discovered cosmic diamond is a chunk of crystallized carbon 50 light-years from the Earth in the constellation Centaurus. It is 2,500 miles across...

    Then again, maybe Sir Arthur's conjecture is right and there's a much larger diamond in our own "backyard". Now if only the Firstborn would do their thing and fire up Lucifer, diamond would be as cheap as sand...
  • Um...not quite (Score:5, Informative)

    by UPAAntilles ( 693635 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:20AM (#8278321)
    It's a white dwarf [], the diamond would be sorrounded by plasma and gas.
  • 2010 : Odyssey Two (Score:5, Informative)

    by MichaelGCD ( 728279 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:35AM (#8278371) Homepage
    I remember reading that in 2010: Odyssey Two. In the book, there's a diamond the size of earth at it's core.
  • by fafalone ( 633739 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:35AM (#8278372)
    Why must people write numbers like that? It's unfathomable anyway so just write the proper name (10 decillion in the US system) instead of obnoxious "billion trillion billion mllion" nonsense. Writing 10 billion trillion trillion doesn't help people understand it better, it just annoys those who know how to correctly name extremely large numbers.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:39AM (#8278384) Homepage
    Yeah, and Gemesys [], the new synthetic diamond gem manufacturer, caved in to deBeers and are now engraving "Gemesis created" and a serial number on each stone.

    But in time, the bottom will fall out. In 1943, Linde Chemical created the first synthetic sapphire. Now, you can buy 200mm sapphire bar stock. [] Big 16mm gem-quality sapphires are available for about $10. The same thing happened to rubies and emeralds.

    They're just rocks, people.

  • calculations (again) (Score:5, Informative)

    by maddh ( 608481 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @04:56AM (#8278425)
    I was curious about if they could land on that to mine it (interstellar distances aside) what kinda gravity would be at the surface. so i did some simple physics calculation, double check my work.

    Gravitatotional Force
    Fg = G * m1 * m2 * r^-2
    Gravitational Acceleration Fg/m2
    Ag = G *m1 * r^-2

    G = 6.67E-11
    m1= 5 million trillion trillion lbs = 5 * 10^6 * 10^12 * 10^12 lbs= 5E30 lbs *(1kg/2.2lbs) = 2.26E30 kg
    r = diameter of 2500mi/2 = 1250mi * (1609 m/mi) = 2011680 meters
    Ag= 6.67E-11 * 2.26E30kg * (2011680m)^-2 = 37,249,159.4 m/s^2

    Ag = (37,249,159.4 m/s^2)/(9.8 m/s^2)= 3,800,934.63 g's

    3.8 million times earth gravity?
    Unless there was some mistake in the way they described the mass (million billion trillion) that seems pretty rough right?

    again correct me if i was wrong.

  • by jms ( 11418 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @05:00AM (#8278435)
    According to Google Calculator [], this diamond has ~ 330,000 times the mass of the planet earth.

  • by infonick ( 679715 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @05:00AM (#8278438) Homepage
    anyone here up on their physics? i think i'm doing this right...

    acceleration = Gm/r^2

    G = Gravitational constant = 6.67*10^-11
    m = mass (Kg) = 2.26796185*10^30 Kg (or - 5*10^30 Lb)
    r = radius to the center of the object (m) = 2011680 m (or - 2500miles / 2)

    acceleration = (6.67*10^-11)(2.26796185*10^30 Kg) / (2011680 m ^2)

    acceleration due to gravity = 37,380,386.1 m/s^2 !?!?!?!?
  • um what? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 14, 2004 @05:11AM (#8278466)
    this is what i could find []

    Q: What is RETSYN?
    A: RETSYN is a Warner-Lambert Company trademark for the active ingredient in CERTS, Cool Mint Drops, and CERTS Power Mints. RETSYN* consists of a combination of copper gluconate and hydrogenated cottonseed oil. It is RETSYN, in addition to the flavor, which is responsible for the efficacy of CERTS against breath odours. The hydrogenated vegetable oil and the copper gluconate absorb odors in the mouth.

    which KIND of makes sense but is really very obscure that i find it hard to believe that it would go plus 4 funny so fast
  • Percieved Value (Score:2, Informative)

    by mac os ken ( 732050 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @05:40AM (#8278538) Homepage Journal
    Sorry to post this on Valentine's Day but it must be said. Diamonds are not really a precious stone. Most of the world's diamond supplies are locked away by DeBeers and released into the market slowly to inflate perceived value. Diamonds have no real resale value, they only have sentimental value. Ever try to sell your diamond encrusted jewelry? You'll never get as much as you paid for them unless your piece is literally one in a million.

    Diamonds unfortunately are the product of blood feuds, multinational marketing values, and an evil corporate identity.
  • by billy reuben ( 667186 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @05:56AM (#8278579)
    I seem to recall something about the UN building having a diamond coating at the end of one of the books, and a monolith sitting in front of the building as decoration. At the end of said book, the monolith begins to wake up, foreshadowing a new phase of monolith-catalyzed excitement.
  • Moderators, come on! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sara Chan ( 138144 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @06:06AM (#8278598)
    Moderators, the link in the parent post has nothing to do with the diamond or the story--it's about another topic entirely. Check the link to see.

    The poster is a well-known troll: look at his history. Please mod the jerk into oblivion.

  • Re:ppfffttt (Score:5, Informative)

    by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @06:22AM (#8278633)
    Get a photocopy of Astrophysical Journal Letters from your local library (via interlibrary loan if they don't carry it) and don't be such a snob.

    A "snob"? A little skepticism is warranted here.

    White dwarfs have densities in the ballpark of one million grams per cc. Have we ever compressed any matter on earth at all to a density of 1 million grams per cc? Do you seriously think that carbon, which as diamond has an invariant density of 3.51 g/cc, would still exist in something resembling its familiar form at a density of 1 million g/cc? As a covalently bonded sp3 tetrahedral diamond lattice?

    The internuclear spacing of carbon nuclei in a carbon dwarf is about 1% of what it is in an ordinary diamond. It may be made of carbon, but this is not diamond. I doubt it's even diamondlike. It's something else.
  • Re:Formation (Score:4, Informative)

    by zabieru ( 622547 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @06:46AM (#8278685)
    Well, that's actually a myth. They won't fuse all the way to iron normally... Mostly just to carbon, a little higher in some very hot or very unusual stars, but generally the limit is carbon. Yes, theoretically fusing higher elements produces a bit of energy, but for reasons I don't entirely understand it doesn't actually happen. Most everything higher than carbon comes from supernovas. Novas and near-nova stars produce carbon and I think lithium. Regular stars produce pretty much just helium. If you want more, ask a real physicist. I ain't one.
  • by doru ( 541245 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @06:47AM (#8278691) Homepage
    First of all, the preprint is actually at :

    Second, nowhere in the paper is there any mention of "diamond". Crystallized carbon can also be in graphite form, so it might actually be a very large pencil lead...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 14, 2004 @06:59AM (#8278713)
    that's the cat's eye nebula in the background of that cheesy unrealistic simulation! I have a poster of that one. used to sit on my desktop, too! e/ releases/1995/01/image/a
  • Re:Numbers (Score:4, Informative)

    by RogerWilco ( 99615 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @07:21AM (#8278762) Homepage Journal
    In the rest of the World:
    million: 6 zeroes
    milliard: 9 zeroes
    billion: 12
    billiard: 15
    trillion: 18
    trilliard: 21
    quadrillion: 24
    quintillion: 30
    hexillion or sexillion: 36
    septillion: 42
    octillion: 48
    nonillion: 54
    decillion: 60
    undecillion: 66
    duodecillion: 72
    A duodecillion is about as big as you get, roughly being the number of particles in the galaxy. You could keep on counting if you liked, the system is a derivative of roman numerals (with some greek for flavour).
    In the 17th century the French decided to get rid of all the "iard"'s and have steps of 3 zeroes instead of 6 between the "ion"'s. The USA adopted this system.
    The Brittish kept the original system, and in 1948 the French reverted to the "iard" system, this leaving the USA as the only country ussing a different system, giving rise to much misunderstanding and potential problems like space probes hitting Mars.

    Adriaan Renting.
  • Re:Um...not quite (Score:1, Informative)

    by mubar ( 676606 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @07:33AM (#8278798)
    Basic Physics: It's the fusion reactions that keep the sun and other stars from collapsing to a compact package. White dwarf can't produce enough fusion reactions anymore, so gravity wins.
  • by Hunzpunz ( 634432 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @07:54AM (#8278845)
    I'd readjust the calculation a little bit, it was talked about 10 million trillion trillion carats, not 5 million trillion trillion pounds... a carat is 1 carat [], and therefore i'd adjust the result by dividing it by 1250 ((a pound / 0.2 grams)/2 (because he started with 5 billion... instead of 10...)).

    so we'll end with round about 3040.74 g's, if everything else is right, which i didn't check.
  • Re:Numbers (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ben Hutchings ( 4651 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @08:55AM (#8278982) Homepage
    Britain adopted the American system a while ago.
  • by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd DOT bandrowsky AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday February 14, 2004 @10:20AM (#8279247) Homepage Journal
    World currency markets are not based on gold standards anymore. There's just not enough gold to go around to capture the economic value being traded in today's electronic money.

    If the world were flooded with gold, industrialized nations would use it as a resource in producing consumer goods. We would have gold everything, but, the world markets would remain intact.
  • by It's the tripnaut! ( 687402 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @10:36AM (#8279328) Homepage
    Don't they know that 10 billion trillion trillion is 10 octillion?
  • by nerdguy569 ( 727358 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @10:45AM (#8279363)
    the majority of Jupiter's mass is protium, Hydrogen with a molar mass of one, its too small to have been a star of any size at any point.
    though there is evidence to suport that if Jupiter were to have a higher deuterium (heavy hydrogen) content, it would turn into a star, however this is not happening, so don't worry about having no night anytime soon.
  • Re:Numbers (Score:3, Informative)

    by thebigmacd ( 545973 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @11:43AM (#8279656)
    Canada uses thousand = 10^3, million = 10^6, billion = 10^9, trillion = 10^12, quadrillion = 10^15, etc just like the U.S.

    The U.S. isn't the only country in North America!
  • by juhaz ( 110830 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @11:56AM (#8279735) Homepage
    And gold is just a shiny metal.

    Sure it is, it's rare, though, and quite unlike gemstones, can not be synthesized (transmuted, yes, but that costs way more than gold itself).

    And cash is just ink and paper.

    Yes, it is. In that respect, you're right, cash is just like diamonds - it's only valuable because it's controlled by someone - but unlike diamonds, cash is not controlled by illegal cartel. Some people won't like governments or other administrative organizations, but I don't think anyone thinks money would be better of in hands of de Beers than central banks of nations.

    These things have value because people believe they have, but they also have value because they are at least somewhat rare, due to someone controlling the supply. If you put unlimited amount of cash to market, it leads inevitably to inflation, pieces of ink and paper no longer have any value because there are too many of them.

    If you put enough diamonds on market, same thing happens, they lose any value they had, be it real or imaginary.
  • Re:Formation (Score:5, Informative)

    by GreenPhreak ( 60944 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @12:28PM (#8279937)
    The lifetime of the star (and the elements that it ends up fusing to sustain that lifetime) are determined only by the initial mass of the star. Most stars are low mass stars (it's easier to form smaller clumps of gas), and these stars take a long time to run out of their hydrogen supply (in fact the least massive of these still haven't run out, and won't for several billion years).
    As stars run out of hydrogen, they start fusing other elements present in their cores. This takes them through different stages of stellar evolution (red giant, horizontal branch stars, assymptotic branch stars, etc.) They continue to gain energy from this process until they reach iron. When these stars fuse elements heavier than iron, they don't actually get a net energy output from the reaction and thus their pressure source (fusion) cannot sustain the equilibrium against the gravitational force that constantly tries to collapse them. This is when a supernovae event occurs. As the star collapses under its own gravitation, the core rapidly fuses anything it can as the density increases. This is why the previous poster is right in saying that the main source for elements heavier than iron in the universe is supernovae.
  • Corrected URL (Score:5, Informative)

    by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @12:40PM (#8280017) Homepage Journal

    They're selling yellow diamonds. I thought the Russians had a process years ago for adding some metal to the stew that hoovered up the nitrogen that caused the yellow color, producing clear diamonds.

    I'm with the Slashdotter who said that even at the same price, he'd prefer to own or give a jewel embodying human science, engineering, ingenuity and cooperation rather than one dug out of the ground in an armed camp. My wife feels the same way. If I had to have a natural diamond I'd wait for a Martian one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 14, 2004 @12:56PM (#8280100)
    Both you and the parent are off by one book. 2010 did not have the giant diamond, 2061 had it. Chunks of it were ejected from Jupiters core and one mountain sized shard managed to land on Europa, amazingly enough doing it at a speed that did cause devestation across the entire moon. A little suspension of disbelief is needed there but it is lessened by the possibility that the monolith may have intervened to stop a tragedy from befalling the species it was nurturing on Europa. Of course, why it would let it land at all is a bit of a question, but it could have been because the monolith saw no reason to waste more energy than absolutely neccessary or maybe it was even some sort of test for humanity.
    Humanity mining the giant diamond chunks floating around would have happened between 2061 and the book 3001. In 3001, humanity has advanced quite a lot, with their technology getting close to "indistinguishable from magic" from our point of view. One of the astronauts who died in 2001 is found frozen in space, surely suffering damage to every single cell and completely dead by all modern standards. He is revived and goes on to take part, along with HAL in the destruction of the monolith, which has gotten instructions back from the main office to wipe out humanity because we got a pretty bad report card around the beginning of the millenium.
  • Re:Numbers (Score:3, Informative)

    by chongo ( 113839 ) * on Saturday February 14, 2004 @06:47PM (#8282228) Homepage Journal
    ''*Is* there even a proper name for "5 million trillion trillion"?''''

    You can find the name for "5 million trillion trillion" == 5e30 by using my English name of a number [], an open source Perl program that can generate names of numbers of any size (e.g., the English name of the largest known prime []).

    In the above article, one could replace ''5 million trillion trillion pounds'' with:

    • five nonillion pounds in the so-called American system
    • five quintillion pounds in the so-called European system

    And one could replace ''10 billion trillion trillion carats'' with:

    • ten decillion carats in the so-called American system
    • ten quintilliard carats in the so-called European system
  • Re:ppfffttt (Score:4, Informative)

    by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Saturday February 14, 2004 @06:58PM (#8282301)
    Probably. When a supercolliders collide two gold nuclei, the density gets pretty damned high, but unfortunately I can't seem to Google any solid numbers up. I'd strongly suspect that the density gets into that range.

    Oh in those collisions the density is much much higher- maybe a factor of a thousand times higher, approaching neutron star density. But in fact ALL nuclei have comparable density and as you point out we have no macroscopic quantity of this stuff.

    White dwarfs are supported by degenerate electron pressure. So many electrons are crammed into such a small space that the entire star has become something like one giant atom with lots of nuclei in it. All low energy electron quantum states are occupied by electrons. Except at the very highest energy levels near the Fermi energy [], which are adjacent to unoccupied levels immediately above, giving the electrons in those states a little freedom of movement.

    A white dwarf has no internal energy source- it spends the rest of its life cooling down into a cinder. Since the star is hot (surface temps are commonly 100000 K) there is some spillover into higher energy levels. But as the star cools down, they gradually settle down and fill all available levels below the Fermi energy.

    The nuclei, OTOH, still have plenty of room. They are still bouncing around and having collisions in the star like a classical gas because they still have so many unoccupied quantum states to explore. There probably isn't much difference between a carbon-dominated white dwarf and a helium-dominated one, since the behavior of both is mostly determined by what the electrons are doing. The article says that by studying pulsations of the star, they determined that the interior has "solidified to form the galaxy's largest diamond". It leaves out some details. What is "solidifying"? The electrons or the embedded nuclei? It could mean a bunch of things. "Diamond" is not really one of them, though. This would be a different sort of diamond than you are used to.

    When you hear an astrophysicist claiming that he has found a "girl's best friend" in space, always be skeptical. These physicists know little about what girls really want.

"To take a significant step forward, you must make a series of finite improvements." -- Donald J. Atwood, General Motors