posted on Apr, 5 2013 @ 08:26 AM
The Kepler Space Telescope has detected something extremely unusual. While keeping watch on a red dwarf star, known as KOI-256, astronomers noticed a
"dip" in the starlight data. This dip, apparently, could indicate an extrasolar planet passing in front of the star. This type of event is known
as a "transit" and Kepler is sensitive enough to catch Earth-sized planets as they pass in front of their stars.
When a transit was detected in the KOI-256 system, astronomers assumed it was simply a planet. But something strange was happening, and they took a
closer look. Measurements revealed that a compact white dwarf star was affecting the system. White dwarf stars are small, but extremely dense, on
par with the mass of the sun.
Artist's rendition of what's happening:
With the help of another NASA space observatory, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), which analyzes the ultraviolet light of the stars in
Kepler’s field of view, the researchers noticed that as the white dwarf passed behind the red dwarf, the starlight would dim, but when the white
dwarf passed in front, the light would be slightly brighter than expected. This is counter-intuitive to how transits work, but KOI-256 is anything but
As the white dwarf passed in front of the red dwarf, its extreme gravitational field was causing spacetime to bend, focusing the light from the red
dwarf, enhancing the starlight. As the white dwarf passed behind the red dwarf, there would be no gravitational disruption of starlight and therefore
no starlight enhancement. This finding will be published on April 20 in the Astrophysical Journal.
The article goes on to state that this is an example of Einstein's Theory of Relativity in action.
Visit the article