white dwarf

September Editorial      


    Diamond in the Sky


      In February this year, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced the discovery of the largest diamond. That is, the largest diamond anywhere. But no-one will be putting it in their treasure chest soon. The diamond is a cosmic chunk of crystallised carbon, 4,000 km across, in the constellation Centaurus some 50 light-years away from Earth. It is actually a white dwarf.

     White dwarfs are remnants of burned out stars which are approximately the size of Earth. They are composed primarily of carbon which is the end product once the fusion which once made the dwarf a star has been completed. Diamonds are made from carbon, and a slow process of crystallation over billions of years has turned this former sun into pure diamond.

      To astronomers the object is technically known as BPM 37093. It is the first of its kind to be discovered, although astronomers believe that many white dwarfs eventually crystallise into diamond stars. The theory that white dwarfs might become huge diamonds was known forty years ago, but only recently have scientists developed the techniques to prove it. In fact, the same might happen to our sun billions of years in the future.

      At ten billion trillion trillion carats the diamond star is far and away the largest diamond ever discovered and puts to shame the largest diamond on Earth, the 530-carat Star of Africa which resides in the Crown Jewels of England.

      Some people have started to refer to the diamond star as 'Lucy' in tribute to the Beatles song 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.' However, we should also mention here that the Beatles song had little to do with diamonds and indeed it is believed that "Lucy in the sky with Diamonds" is an acronym for the mind-bending drug LSD. Which is appropriate, as the idea of a 4,000 km wide diamond seems close enough to a hallucination ...


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