News Stories

There May be Diamonds in the Sky

At the first Christmas, three astrologers followed a star that shone so brightly, it looked like a diamond in the sky. A new study suggests that some stars in the Milky Way could harbor "carbon super-Earths"--giant terrestrial planets that are made up of 50% diamonds.

Researchers don't know these exist, but think they might. Cayman Unterborn says, "It's possible for planets that are as big as fifteen times the mass of the Earth to be half made of diamond." The goal is to understand what happens to carbon inside planets in other solar systems, and whether solar systems that are rich in carbon could produce planets that are mostly made of diamond.

However, there wouldn't be any life as we know it on them because the conditions would be too harsh. But life is what astronomers are looking for: Researcher Wendy Panero says, "We're looking at how volatile elements like hydrogen and carbon interact inside the Earth, because when they bond with oxygen, you get atmospheres, you get oceans--you get life. The ultimate goal is to compile a suite of conditions that are necessary for an ocean to form on a planet."

Unterborn says, "To date, more than five hundred planets have been discovered outside of our solar system, yet we know very little about their internal compositions."

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