Our universe is so vast and full of mysteries and wonderful things. One such example is an object that astronomers first encountered nearly two decades ago: a diamond larger than the Moon itself, making it the largest known diamond ever discovered.
The cosmic diamond piece – which was discovered in 2004 – has a diameter of 4,000 km, which exceeds the Moon, which has a diameter of 3,500 km. This object, which astronomers have chosen to call “Lucy,” is actually a giant piece of crystallized carbon, the heart of a dying star, and is located about 50 light-years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus. The star was named “Lucy” after the Beatles song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, As explained by the BBC.
The star in question, whose technical name is BPM 37093, is known as a white dwarf. This stuff is the core that a star leaves behind when it runs out of fuel. In fact, the Sun will become a white dwarf when it has burned off all of its fuel in about 5 billion years. This means that BPM 37093, before it was a diamond, shone like the sun, only when it ran out of fuel did it start to compress and when it faded it ended up being a diamond.
At the end of its life, stars with masses similar to our sun become a red giant that loses its outer layers, and the star is compressed to reach a high density known as a white dwarf. This dead star can last for billions and even trillions of years, gradually fading away and cooling until it becomes invisible.
While diamonds may be rare and valuable on earth, they are far more common in the universe. The primary element is carbon, and it’s something that’s ubiquitous. There are planets in it even raining diamonds; On Uranus and Neptune, for example, the temperatures and pressure are so intense that carbon atoms can turn into diamonds in their atmospheres. For their part, white dwarfs are composed primarily of crystalline carbon, so they are, in essence, cosmic diamonds.
White dwarfs emit radiation, as well as pulsations that astronomers can detect to determine their composition. “By measuring these pulsations, we were able to study the white dwarf’s hidden interior, just as seismic measurements of earthquakes allow geologists to study Earth’s interior. “We found that the carbon interior of this white dwarf has solidified to form the largest diamond in the galaxy,” he told the BBC Astronomer Travis Metcalfe of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who led the research team that discovered it.
And this is how while the largest diamond ever discovered on Earth is just over 500 carats in size, the remnants of some stars in the sky could be 10,000 million trillion carat diamonds, like Lucy’s.
Finally, it is worth noting that white dwarfs are common, until the sun will become one and may also remain as a giant diamond in the center of the solar system. Recently, it was discovered Earth-sized white dwarfsOthers are likely to be discovered soon.
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