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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Diamond Planet Orbits a Pulsar
25 August 2011 2:00 pm
Astronomers have discovered the densest extrasolar planet yet: A Jupiter-mass remnant of a carbon- and oxygen-rich star that measures no more than 55,000 kilometers across. The odd world, whose density is on average at least 23 grams per cubic centimeter (or about twice that of lead), is probably crystalline and possibly largely composed of ultradense diamond. The planet orbits its parent sun—a pulsar, or a rapidly-spinning neutron star that emits an intense beam of radio waves, dubbed PSR J1719-1438—once every 2 hours and 10 minutes, the researchers report online today in Science. The planet’s orbit measures about 600,000 kilometers across, only 50% more than the average distance from Earth to the moon. How such a dense planet formed is unclear, the researchers say, but it’s probably the crystalline vestige of a white dwarf star whose atmosphere was stripped away by the parent pulsar. Most of the pulsars that spin faster than once per 20 milliseconds are part of a binary star system, but about 30% have no companions whatsoever, the scientists note. Only one other rapidly-spinning pulsar is known to be orbited by Earth-mass planets—a sign that exotic planets such as this megadiamond are, like their Earthly counterparts, rare indeed.
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