Last Update: Tuesday, February 17, 2004. 11:48am (AEDT)
Out of this world: huge diamond found
Scientists believe they have discovered the largest diamond known to mankind - estimated at 10 billion trillion trillion carats.
The problem for all those diamond-fanciers out there is that the gem in question is around 50 light years from Earth.
Astronomers believe it is the super-compressed heart of an old star, which has burnt out and become a 1,500-kilometre wide lump of crystallised carbon.
Its official name is BPM37093, but the Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics astronomers who discovered it have dubbed it 'Lucy', as in the Beatles lyric "Lucy in the sky with diamonds".
Vince Forde, from Canberra's Mt Stromlo Observatory, says the giant diamond offers an insight into the life cycle of stars.
"Actually, this would probably be the oldest stage of a star's life we've ever looked at, because once they go past that, and they are totally cool, not emitting any radiation at all, you can't see them," he said.
He says Lucy's sheer size dwarfs the largest diamond found on Earth - a comparatively miniscule 3,100 carats.
"You can see every female listener's eyes going into orbit as you give that carat figure," Mr Forde told ABC radio.
And while Lucy's distance from Earth means a space race to secure her is unlikely, Mr Forde says Australia already has a good claim on the monster diamond.
"This huge De Beers thing is sitting right down in the southern sky, in the constellation of Centaurus, just near the Southern Cross," he said.
"All the good things seem to be in the south."
-- Adapted from a report on AM