Diamond Planet
An exotic planet that seems to be made of diamond racing around a tiny star in our galactic backyard in an undated image courtesy of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. Reuters/Handout

4,000 light years away exists an exotic planet made of diamond five times bigger than Earth, spotted by astronomers.

As part of an ongoing search for pulsars, the diamond planet was discovered by a team of astronomers, led by Professor Matthew Bailes of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

Found to be the remnant of a once-massive star that lost its outer layers, the diamond planet is estimated as 34,175 miles across, which is about five times Earth's diameter.

It orbits a millisecond pulsar, known as PSR J1719-1438, which lies around 4,000 light-years away in the southern constellation Serpens, located about one-eighth of the way toward the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

A pulsar is a small spinning star that emits a beam of radio waves from its poles, which are detectable from Earth. A millisecond is a pulsar with a rotational period of about 1-10 milliseconds.

The new found pulsar is tiny and compact, measuring only about 12 miles across, has a mass of1.4 times that of the Sun and completes more than 10,000 rotations every minute.

While about 70 percent of the known millisecond pulsars have orbital companions, PSR J1719-1438 is the second thought to have a planetary partner.

The steady pulses of energy omitted by the pulsar showed regular disturbance, leading the researchers to conclude that there is the gravitational pull of a small orbiting object.

The planet was discovered using the Parkes radio telescope of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Lovell radio telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, and one of the Keck telescopes in Hawaii.

The planet has slightly more mass than Jupiter but is 20 times as dense. That is equivalent to 18 times the density of water, said Bailes.

In this case, something with the mass of our sun has evolved to be something the mass of a planet -- quite extraordinary, astronomer Michael Keith of the Australia Telescope National Facility told Discovery News.

The mass suggests the components of the planet cannot be gases like hydrogen and helium as most stars, but heavier elements such as carbon and oxygen, and the immense pressure would force the carbon to form a dense crystal-like structure, much more closely packed than in a diamond on Earth, according to researchers.

The newfound diamond planet probably formed from a white dwarf star, which is the core of a dead sun-like star, which lost its mass to the pulsar.

The leftover object likely represents just 0.1 percent of the white dwarf's original mass, says National Geographic.

The system shows a stable operation, and shows no sign of change - possibly for billions of years.

Of course, this also means that it could well have been around for a long time, just waiting for us to find it. Since it's likely to last for longer than the Earth or the sun, I would say that in this case, a diamond really is forever, Keith said.

However, whether the long-living diamond planet shares the beauty of Earth's diamond remains a mystery.

In terms of what it would look like, I don't know I could even speculate, said Ben Stappers of the University of Manchester. I don't imagine that a picture of a very shiny object is what we're looking at here.

The research is published in this week's Science.