Friday, January 12, 2007

Diamonds ... A Diamond is...?

First, and this is hard to believe, but its true, the largest diamond in the universe is actually floating out in space.

"Astronomers Find a Huge Diamond in Space
Fri, 13 Feb 2004 - Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have found a diamond in space, and it's big… really big. The object, technically known as BPM 37093, is a crystallized white dwarf star approximately 4,000 km across. It's believed that this is the final outcome for many stars, including our own Sun. In five billion years our Sun will become a white dwarf and two billion years after that the carbon should crystallize to form a gigantic diamond.

Image credit: CfA

When choosing a Valentine's Day gift for a wife or girlfriend, you can't go wrong with diamonds. If you really want to impress your favorite lady this Valentine's Day, get her the galaxy's largest diamond. But you'd better carry a deep wallet, because this 10 billion trillion trillion carat monster has a cost that's literally astronomical!

"You would need a jeweler's loupe the size of the Sun to grade this diamond!" says astronomer Travis Metcalfe (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), who leads a team of researchers that discovered the giant gem. "Bill Gates and Donald Trump together couldn't begin to afford it."

When asked to estimate the value of the cosmic jewel, Ronald Winston, CEO of Harry Winston Inc., indicated that such a large diamond probably would depress the value of the market, stating, "Who knows? It may be a self-deflating prophecy because there is so much of it." He added, "It is definitely too big to wear!"

The newly discovered cosmic diamond is a chunk of crystallized carbon 50 light-years from the Earth in the constellation Centaurus. (A light-year is the distance light travels in a year, or about 6 trillion miles.) It is 2,500 miles across and weighs 5 million trillion trillion pounds, which translates to approximately 10 billion trillion trillion carats, or a one followed by 34 zeros.

"It's the mother of all diamonds!" says Metcalfe. "Some people refer to it as 'Lucy' in a tribute to the Beatles song 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.'"

The diamond star completely outclasses the largest diamond on Earth, the 530-carat Star of Africa which resides in the Crown Jewels of England. The Star of Africa was cut from the largest diamond ever found on Earth, a 3,100-carat gem.

The huge cosmic gem (technically known as BPM 37093) is actually a crystallized white dwarf. A white dwarf is the hot core of a star, left over after the star uses up its nuclear fuel and dies. It is made mostly of carbon and is coated by a thin layer of hydrogen and helium gases.

For more than four decades, astronomers have thought that the interiors of white dwarfs crystallized, but obtaining direct evidence became possible only recently.

"The hunt for the crystal core of this white dwarf has been like the search for the Lost Dutchman's Mine. It was thought to exist for decades, but only now has it been located," says co-author Michael Montgomery (University of Cambridge).

The white dwarf studied by Metcalfe, Montgomery, and Antonio Kanaan (UFSC Brazil), is not only radiant but also harmonious. It rings like a gigantic gong, undergoing constant pulsations.

"By measuring those pulsations, we were able to study the hidden interior of the white dwarf, just like seismograph measurements of earthquakes allow geologists to study the interior of the Earth. We figured out that the carbon interior of this white dwarf has solidified to form the galaxy's largest diamond," says Metcalfe.

Our Sun will become a white dwarf when it dies 5 billion years from now. Some two billion years after that, the Sun's ember core will crystallize as well, leaving a giant diamond in the center of our solar system.

"Our Sun will become a diamond that truly is forever," says Metcalfe.

A paper announcing this discovery has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters for publication. "

Secondly, the Skepchick reports in her blog about "LifeDiamonds", that is, Diamonds that are made from the recently deceased.

"A few weeks back, I wrote about how I am not a fan of diamond engagement rings and of diamond jewelry, in general. Mostly, this is because I have some moral apprehensions about the way the diamond industry is run. However, I am going to speak out in support of the artificial diamonds created by a company called LifeGem. This company makes artificial diamonds from the cremated remains of deceased humans and animals. The vice president of the company recently came here to MIT to give a talk as part of the geology department’s Diamond Seminar Series. The artificial diamonds the company makes are really beautiful and, clearly, they carry a large amount of meaning for the people who order these diamonds.

At first, the idea of turning your loved one into an expensive artificial diamond may sound a little crazy. I mean, I can just imagine an attractive, middle aged woman out on a date. Her date comments on her beautiful diamond earrings, and she replies, “oh, yes. I turn my deceased ex-husbands into diamonds.” There is a little bit of a creepiness factor to turning dead relatives into diamonds, I must admit. I mean, would Elizabeth Taylor end up with a diamond tennis bracelet made from all her dead husbands?

However, is it really so creepy to turn the ugly remains of dead person into something beautiful? As a geologist, I find the idea of being turned into a diamond when I die sort of appealing. Really, I want to donate my body to science. I mean, I’ll be dead, so I won’t care and it gives me some comfort now to know that my dead body could do something useful. Someone may as well get some use out of my decaying carbon and hydrogen atoms. However, ending up as a nice piece of jewelry worn by a family member would be okay, too.

Funeral rituals are for the living, anyway. Dead Uncle Ernie doesn’t care– or even realize– that he’s sitting in a flower-covered urn on the fireplace mantle. He’s dead. In my atheistic worldview, that’s it. No survival after death, no feelings or emotions after death. Just decomposition and return to the Earth. Or to a diamond, apparently. You can bet that Uncle Ernie’s wife Aunt Betty cares a great amount about that urn full of ashes. Maybe she feels better knowing that some part of her dead husband is still close to her, watching over her from the fireplace. In my opinion, turning cremated ashes into diamonds is just taking the cremated-relative-in-the-living-room one step further. If it gives the living some comfort to own diamonds made from their deceased relatives, then why shouldn’t diamonds be made from dead relatives? Dust to dust, ashes to diamonds.

Interestingly, the company recently announced that they can also make diamonds from locks of hair. So, you can make your living relatives into diamonds, too. Hmm… maybe an engagement ring made from the hair of your beloved is just a little too creepy, but at least it’s not a conflict diamond."


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Anonymous confused boi said...

This is funny, I want to artifically create diamonds and make it the same quality as the natural one. The thing is aritifical diamond as far as i know doesn't come out like natural ones.

You can get the temperature but applying enough pressure and not cracking the diamond is very hard as told by my highschool science teacher couple of years ago.

I also read about this lifgem people and showed it to my teacher. Apparently the teacher didn't believe it and I don't know if it is really true.

I think lifegem is trying to make people cremate bodies instead of burying them. People are too religious and bury bodies and that takes up too much space so it could be the reason behind it and for the money they give the company can get natural diamond and sell it to the relatives of the dead person.

Come on, if someone knows how to artifically make a diamond with same quality as natural ones, .. they'll be dead rich!

Count me in though, I'm going to build my space shuttle to get to that diamond star first :D

btw, thank you for sharing the story. i came to your site while searching about this star, which I saw in another non-English site.

7:30 PM

Anonymous Toasty said...

This thing is freaking HUUUUUUUUUUUGE i am researching this thing because i'm going to photoshop it onto a gold band i got for christmas lol

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