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New Method of Finding Planets Scores its First Discovery
05.13.2013

Excerpt from CfA Release 2013-12

...A team at Tel Aviv University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has just discovered an exoplanet using a new method that relies on Einstein's special theory of relativity.

"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," added lead author Simchon Faigler of Tel Aviv University, Israel.

...The new method looks for three small effects that occur simultaneously as a planet orbits the star. Einstein's "beaming" effect causes the star to brighten as it moves toward us, tugged by the planet, and dim as it moves away. The brightening results from photons "piling up" in energy, as well as light getting focused in the direction of the star's motion due to relativistic effects.

"This is the first time that this aspect of Einstein's theory of relativity has been used to discover a planet," said co-author Tsevi Mazeh of Tel Aviv University.

..."Einstein's planet," formally known as Kepler-76b, is a "hot Jupiter" that orbits its star every 1.5 days. Its diameter is about 25 percent larger than Jupiter and it weighs twice as much...

...Although the new method can't find Earth-sized worlds using current technology, it offers astronomers a unique discovery opportunity. Unlike radial velocity searches, it doesn't require high-precision spectra. Unlike transits, it doesn't require a precise alignment of planet and star as seen from Earth.

Kepler-76b was identified by the BEER algorithm, whose acronym stands for relativistic BEaming, Ellipsoidal, and Reflection/emission modulations. BEER was developed by Professor Tsevi Mazeh and his student, Simchon Faigler, at Tel Aviv University, Israel.

 

Kepler-76b: Einstein's Planet
Kepler-76b: Einstein's Planet
"Einstein's planet," formally known as Kepler-76b, is a "hot Jupiter" that orbits its star every 1.5 days. Its diameter is about 25 percent larger than Jupiter and it weighs twice as much. This artist's conception shows Kepler-76b orbiting its host star, which has been tidally distorted into a slight football shape (exaggerated here for effect). The planet was detected using the BEER algorithm, which looked for brightness changes in the star as the planet orbits due to relativistic BEaming, Ellipsoidal variations, and Reflected light from the planet.
Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)
Source: CfA Press Release No.: 2013-12
Kepler-76b: Grazing Transit Path
Kepler-76b: Grazing Transit Path
This graphic shows Kepler-76b's orbit around a yellow-white, type F star located 2,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. Although Kepler-76b was identified using the BEER effect (see above), it was later found to exhibit a grazing transit, crossing the edge of the star's face as seen from Earth.
Credit: Dood Evan
Source: CfA Press Release No.: 2013-12

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