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Space Science

Massive Diamond Found Orbiting Pulsar 204

HairyNevus writes "A recent survey of pulsars has revealed a fascinating discovery of a millisecond pulsar in system PSR J17191438 that has stripped a nearby white dwarf star down to its very core. Although no longer visible, is still has the mass of Jupiter. The remaining core rotates its neutron star companion with a period of just under 2 hours, indicating extremely close proximity. Given this distance, scientists have calculated that the substance of the core must be very compact, and, without building up the point, they conclude it is made of diamond. One thing I found misleading about the article is that it refers to the core as having 'the size of Jupiter' and 'the mass of Jupiter.' Given their different densities (diamond vs. mostly helium), it would seem clear that their size (i.e. volume) differs."
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Massive Diamond Found Orbiting Pulsar

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  • Better Press Release (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Thursday August 25, 2011 @05:04PM (#37212236) Journal

    One thing I found misleading about the article is that it refers to the core as having 'the size of Jupiter' and 'the mass of Jupiter.'

    Here's the correct Science Journal link [] and here is a better press release from the Max Planck Institute [] that clarifies:

    For the newly discovered pulsar, known as PSR J1719-1438, the astronomers noticed that the arrival times of the pulses were systematically modulated and concluded that this is due to the gravitational pull of a small orbiting companion, a planet. These modulations can tell astronomers several more things about the companion. First, it orbits the pulsar in just two hours and ten minutes, and the distance between the two objects is 600,000 km - a little bit less than the radius of our Sun. Second, the companion is so close to the pulsar that if its diameter was any larger than 60,000 km (less than half the diameter of Jupiter) it would be ripped apart by the gravity of the pulsar.

    So it appears that the article saying "size equivalent to Jupiter" (volume?) is wrong if the Max Planck Institute is correct in saying that its diameter has to be less than half the diameter of Jupiter.

    • I think by "size" the article actually means "mass". Not technically accurate, but at least they don't say "volume". The writer of the article does seem to be pretty clear that it has Jupiter's mass and not its volume.
  • damn (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 25, 2011 @05:06PM (#37212258)

    Now my wife will want it

  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Thursday August 25, 2011 @05:08PM (#37212276)
    Regardless of what the De Beers group wants you to think, diamonds are not that rare. Carbon is the most common element around.

    Still, its kinda nifty to see such a large chunk of the stuff.
    • Regardless of what the De Beers group wants you to think, diamonds are not that rare. Carbon is the most common element around.

      Hydrogen is the most common element, not Carbon. Or was that a hyperbole?

      • by newcastlejon ( 1483695 ) on Thursday August 25, 2011 @05:56PM (#37212928)

        Perhaps the parent meant on Earth, but that's also wrong [], or perhaps they meant just the crust... nope, still wrong []. Or maybe it's the entire Universe? Nope, distant fourth [].

        Care to enlighten us Kenja?

      • Obviously it's hyperbole, but it ignores the distinction between carbon and diamonds. Diamonds here on Earth are relatively rare. And if you count this star or remnant as a single diamond, then they are still rare. Unless parent can explain his point about De Beers tricking everyone or whatever.

        • by Anguirel ( 58085 )

          DeBeers allegedly have lots of diamonds that they hold in vaults to reduce supply and artificially drive up costs. [] And apparently bought rough diamonds from competitors to maintain monopoly control. As they have in the past acted to control supply in that fashion, it would not be surprising if they continue to do so, and continue to lie tot he world that diamonds are as rare as they claim them to be. Along with probably lying about the "supply running low" as diamond mines are fully exploited, and purpos

        • DeBeers has almost total control over diamond production (there are only a handful of mines worldwide that are not DeBeers controlled). They produce more than they sell, and stockpile the rest, creating artificial scarcity. Their marketing department is also responsible for a large proportion of the demand for diamonds. Despite what people think of as a long-standing tratition, prior to DeBeers marketing the hell out of them, diamonds weren't often used in engagement rings. Check your great grandparents rin

        • When De Beers started diamonds were rare mainly because people did not know where to find them. In the last while prospectors have discovered where to look and diamonds have become much more common. I equate this to the price of aluminum. When it was first smelted aluminum was extremely expensive due to the difficulty in refining. It was even used as the cap on the Washington Monument due to the expense. Once the electrolysis process was discovered the price of aluminum plummeted. The price of diamonds shou

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      "Carbon is the most common element around."

      No, in the universe, that would be hydrogen. Carbon is 4th in abundance. It's much farther down the list if you just consider the earth.
      • Hydrogen, helium, lithium and trace amounts of everything else.

        • by emt377 ( 610337 )

          Hydrogen, helium, lithium and trace amounts of everything else.

          Lithium??? I must be missing an internal joke here. The third most abundant element of course is oxygen. In order: H, He, O, C.

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ironchew ( 1069966 ) on Thursday August 25, 2011 @05:08PM (#37212286)

    These planets are a diamond dozen.

  • Look again, the planets are now diamonds.
  • by Zephyn ( 415698 ) on Thursday August 25, 2011 @05:19PM (#37212448)

    We've just got to name the pulsar "Lucy" now.

  • by Kittenman ( 971447 ) on Thursday August 25, 2011 @05:21PM (#37212476)
    Now we'll get private companies saying "hey, if we get into space there is some serious money to be made". That's how we'll finally get there, for keeps. And I'm serious. The future of space is in the hands of corporations, not governments. And that's how it should be.

    Pity I won't be around to see it, but can't have everything.

    • A big hunk of carbon light years away? There's better incentives than that out there, for sure. Maybe if it was a giant tank of rocket fuel...

    • Now we'll get private companies saying "hey, if we get into space there is some serious money to be made". .

      Just to let you know, I will gladly sell you a deed for some land on the new diamond planet! Get in now before all the parcels are sold out!

      Space is limited, but you will receive a certified verified framed deed for your own acre of diamond land, along with your name listed in "who's who in planet sized diamond owners"

      Act now! Get in on the ground floor! Put your money in something solid, like diamond planets! We do layaway!

    • That's correct. Asteroids have trillions of dollars worth of minable minerals. After being hollowed out, they make reasonably good habitats as they can hold oxygen inside.

      So we could turn asteroids into mines, factories, and even houses.

  • That the missus doesn't read this article. Otherwise I know what she'll want for her birthday.

  • by Xerxes314 ( 585536 ) <> on Thursday August 25, 2011 @05:33PM (#37212650)
    The phase diagram of carbon at extreme temperature and pressure is pretty much unknown. We don't even have any really good studies of liquid carbon. So it's entirely possible the core of such a white dwarf would be made of some other phase of carbon. See, for example, this figure of the carbon phase diagram from density functional theory [], showing that over a terapascal, diamond is unstable. Stuff is not the same at the core of a star (even a small one) as in your backyard.
    • This planet-sized diamond is actually an ultra-rare form of diamond? This just keeps getting better and better!

      Serious question from someone with only college physics: if one were to somehow extract this liquid carbon from the white dwarf, would it cool off/ depressurize /decondense to form diamond? Graphite? Or is that so theoretical that no one has a good idea?
      • not so serious answer from someone with no degree:
        I have no freaking idea, but:
        If you slowly depressurize it you get graphite, if it's rapid you get diamond (based on how kimberlite pipes form and bring diamond up with them?)

    • by Xylantiel ( 177496 ) on Thursday August 25, 2011 @10:57PM (#37215028)

      The answer is no it is not diamond.

      One issue is the one you point out, that the correct crystalline structure at high densities/pressures is not a diamond lattice. There is also the pesky fact that the inner portions of white dwarf stars are made of carbon and oxygen.

      One could actually go on and on because diamond is a covalently bonded crystal, while this stuff will be a degenerate electron gas containing an ionic crystal, much more like a crystalline metal.

      I study white dwarf stars for a living (yes really) and calling this stuff diamond is just idiotic.

      • by Warma ( 1220342 )

        Yes, but did you note that the institute's press release put the lower bound of the density of that object at that of Platinum. Ie. this is not a real white dwarf, but a remnant of the core of a star. If only a tiny fraction of the original mass is present, as they postulate, I see reason why the remaining matter would be degenerate. The gravity well might not be deep enough for that.

        This has no bearing on whether it is actually diamond, though. Your notion of the presence of oxygen is correct and I have no

  • by MMORG ( 311325 ) on Thursday August 25, 2011 @05:38PM (#37212700)

    This isn't diamond in any sense that we usualy think of it. Yes, it's carbon atoms, and yes, they're "crystallized", but the core of a white dwarf is composed mostly of electron-degnerate matter where all of the electrons have been disassociated from their parent atoms and all the nuclei clump together, floating in a sea of electrons. This stuff has a density of roughly 1000 kilograms (2,200 lbs) per cubic centimeter. I imagine it would *catastrophically* decompress if you could teleport a chunk of it back to earth. It's not diamond.

    • by ae1294 ( 1547521 )

      So... what you're saying is it's a "Diamond BOMB"! Get me the defence department STAT! We must acquire this new weapon before the commies...

    • I imagine it would *catastrophically* decompress if you could teleport a chunk of it back to earth.

      It's cool, we'll teleport it first to some other country, and then pay off the government in the form of space-diamonds.

    • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Thursday August 25, 2011 @08:38PM (#37214132)

      I imagine it would *catastrophically* decompress if you could teleport a chunk of it back to earth

      I imagine people would pay to see that; I know I would.

    • Metallic carbon?
    • Teleportation is a good point. How could we possibly get a spaceship that close to a pulsar? Maybe our spaceship is made out of diamonds to begin with?

      Hmm... It would be an ideal place for a planetary computer. You have a diamond, or maybe "metalic carbon" substrate for a planet the size of jupiter.
      Then you have a pulsar clock, and powersource.

      Perhaps that's really what we are looking at?


  • We have that shit here too.

  • 2010: Odyssey Two, written in the early 1980s, featured Jupiter having a diamond core.
    • by Daetrin ( 576516 )
      Actually, it was "2061" [] (which was written in the mid to late 80s.) The... prospectors? sent a transmission to their allies back on earth using "Lucy []" as a prearranged code word to indicate that they should... start doing whatever it was they planned to do in the stock market if their hypothesis about the diamond's existence was confirmed.
  • It reminds me of an old Sega-CD game called Dungeon Explorer where you can wish for great wealth at the end and you just get stuck on a planet sized diamond. (Sort of a "Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.)
  • You know when you've been playing too much Minecraft when you try to calculate how many pickaxes it would take to mine it, and how big of a diamond block castle you could construct with it.

  • it should have been pretty easy to find, after all, a diamond that large should be all sparkly.
  • ...Austin Powers movie?

  • If this country were run by women, NASA would be well funded through this discovery... or... it's the lair of a James Bond villain.. I don't care which you choose.
  • I read this whole thread waiting for someone to refer to the mountain-sized blocks of diamond in A Deepness In The Sky and you all fucking let me down.
  • It has been hypothesized (by Anders Sandberg [] and others) that an advanced intelligence might convert a Jupiter sized mass into one large diamond computational substrate - a "Jupiter brain." Now this object is rather larger than Sandberg predicts :

    "...a compact diamond structure would have a maximum radius on the order of 9760 km, somewhat larger than the Earth. Having the density doubles the possible radius and quadruples the mass, which suggests a trade-off between internal delays and computing power"

    but t

  • "We're delivering a package to the diamond planet PSRJ17!" That's a pretty good Futurama episode premise if I ever saw one!
  • ...must have gotten an order in again. I wonder when we find the golden planet, with some nice fjords, of course.
  • by bakes ( 87194 )

    Update - after further examination it has been revealed that the body in question is in fact a giant cubic zirconia.

  • Yeah, yeah, diamonds aren't rare and we can even build them to whatever size in the lab.

    But, what's a rock, that's not a diamond, that a girl's likely to be proud of (i.e. it looks pretty and is as expensive).

    I know you can get rubies and what have you in any size, but they don't have the same marketing power. What I'm thinking of is a rock/mineral that's rare and primarily only known about by geologists.

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