10 Billion Trillion Trillion Carat Diamond Star Discovered

(Source: Matt Groening/Fox)
The newly discovered diamond star is in the constellation Centaurus.  (Source: ne.jp)

“Diamonds will make everything all better!”

As an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, it’s not every day you make a discovery like this one — a 10 billion trillion trillion (yes, a trillion trillion) carat diamond star.
A team led by astronomy professor Travis Metcalfe made the unusual discovery after analyzing BPM 37093, a star 50-light years away in the constellation Centaurus.  The star is a white dwarf.  White dwarfs form from mid-size stars, which gradually expand and use up their nuclear fuel, then contract and cool, forming the white dwarf.

BPM 37093 is still hot and periodically “rings”, pulsing like a gong.  These pulsations allowed the astronomers to determine the star’s composition.  Describes Professor Metcalfe, “By measuring those pulsations, we were able to study the hidden interior of the white dwarf, just like seismograph measurements of earthquakes allow geologists to study the interior of the Earth.  We figured out that the carbon interior of this white dwarf has solidified to form the galaxy’s largest diamond.”

Carbon is a byproduct of nuclear fission reactions.  The carbon that helps make up life on Earth is the remnants of past stars.  Carbon can also compress under heat and gravity to form an ultra-dense crystalline structure, better known as the diamond.  Diamonds have the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any known bulk material.

The star grossly outclasses the largest Terran diamond — a 546-carat Golden Jubilee cut from stone extracted from the Premier mine in South Africa.  Of course what it has in size, it may lack in clarity — larger diamonds often suffer from imperfections.

The team named the diamond star “Lucy” after the Beatles song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.  They say that our Sun will perhaps one day form a similar diamond.  In five billions years our Sun will expand, burn out, and cool into a white dwarf.  Approximately two billion years after the Sun’s “death” the resulting white dwarf’s core may cool and crystallize into a diamond much like “Lucy”.

While interstellar mining may not be realized in our lifetimes, the star could one day be a rich source of material for tomorrow’s societies — should mankind make it that long.

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