Many of you probably remember the old song by The Beatles, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ (one of my personal favourites); well now another diamond in the sky has been found, an exoplanet orbiting a pulsar (aka a neutron star, the collapsed remains of a dead massive star).
Planets have been found around pulsars before, but this one appears to be unique (and among exoplanets in general) – a dense, Jupiter-mass planet that observations have indicated is likely made of crystalline carbon, like diamonds are on Earth. The planet is estimated to be less than 60,000 kilometres (37,282 miles) in diameter, or about 4-5 times the diameter of Earth, but still denser than the much larger Jupiter. This planet is thought to actually have formed from the remaining core of another small companion white dwarf star which was mostly destroyed by the pulsar, a lot different than how “normal” planets form from a disk of gas and dust orbiting a newly-forming star.
If this object is offically considered to be a planet, how will that affect the already long-running and heated debate as to what actually constitutes a planet, especially after poor Pluto was demoted from planetary status a few years ago? Should be interesting… more information here and here.