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'Einstein's Planet' Discovered By Kepler Using Theory of Relativity

  • Michael Briggs , Design & Trend Staff Writer
  • May, 13, 2013, 09:43 PM
An artist's illustration of Kepler-76b, dubbed 'Einstein's Planet,' orbiting its host star.  (Photo: David A. Aguilar (CfA))
An artist's illustration of Kepler-76b, dubbed 'Einstein's Planet,' orbiting its host star. (Photo: David A. Aguilar (CfA))

 

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Astronomers from Tel Aviv University working with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have discovered 'Einstein's Planet.'

The Earth-like planet is the most recent of the 800 worlds discovered beyond our solar system and the first to ever be found using Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity. The alien planet orbits a star about 2,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

"We are looking for very subtle effects. We needed high quality measurements of stellar brightnesses, accurate to a few parts per million," said team member David Latham of the CfA. 

"This was only possible because of the exquisite data NASA is collecting with the Kepler spacecraft," said lead author Simchon Faigler of Tel Aviv University, Israel. 

Though Kepler is designed to discover transiting planets, Kepler-76b was found searching for the three small effects, all predicted by relativity, that occur simultaneously as a planet orbits a star.

The first effect, "beaming," occurs when light is pulled back and forth by the gravity of the planet as it moves closer to the observer (Kepler) and then farther away. The second, "gravitational tides," involves the star's shape when it is viewed at a precise angle. The third effect includes the starlight reflected by the planet.

"Einstein's Planet" is 25 percent larger than Jupiter and weighs nearly two times more. This classifies it as a "hot Jupiter," or large worlds that have no counterpart in our own solar system. It is an extremely hot, gassy giant (3,600 degrees Fahrenheit).

The findings have been published in Astrophysical Journal. 

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