Shine on you crazy object around PSR J1719-1438

“We’re about to begin a journey through the cosmos. We’ll encounter galaxies and suns and planets, life and consciousness coming into being, evolving, and perishing, worlds of ice and stars of diamond, atoms as massive as suns and universes smaller than atoms.” – Carl Sagan

Pulsars, lighthouses in the cosmos, blinking and hissing. In actuality a pulsar is the core of a dead star a neutron star, the hissing and blinking is a torrent of electromagnetic rays emitted from these small (around the size of a city) stars. One  PSR J1719-1438 is in the news at the minute. PSR J1719-1438 spins an incredible (but rather common) 5.7 ms, that’s 5.7 thousandths of a second! When astronomers were observing the pulsars they noticed the signals were “systematically modulated¹” every 130 minutes.  From that they managed to determine something was nearby influencing it with its gravity.

That something turned out to rather special, and a girls best friend. The object orbiting PSR J1719-1438 is a small companion white dwarf star. Around 70%  of these millisecond pulsars have them and they siphon off material from the companion star and this extra energy and matter helps ramp up the spin speeds to the mind boggling speeds they move.  According to the press release:

“This remnant is likely to be largely carbon and oxygen, because a star made of lighter elements like hydrogen and helium would be too big to fit the measured orbiting times,” said Dr Michael Keith (CSIRO), one of the research team members.

The density means that this material is certain to be crystalline: that is, a large part of the star may be similar to a diamond.”

The star stripped of its lighter elements was pushed into a further orbit by the gravity of the pulsar, since there is no fusion-able material left the star is classed as a planet. One that is ironically bigger than our own Sun.

One twitter user calculated that if it is a diamond then the value would be a whopping  £3.578×10^35… That is £357 million billion billion billion. More than the Gross domestic product…..of the EARTH

1 Press release http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-08/uom-apm082311.php

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