A professor at Tel Aviv University and his students have discovered a new planet utilizing Einstein’s theory of relativity.
A professor at Tel Aviv University in collaboration with his students has discovered a new planet outside of the solar system , Tel Aviv University reports. The professor, Tsevi Mazeh, employed principles from Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity to search for the planet. The planet is set to be called Kepler 76-b, after the NASA spacecraft that was utilized to discover this planet. However, one of the doctoral students working on the project, Simchon Faigler, has dubbed the planet “Einstein’s Planet,” since the great Jewish physicists’ ideas were utilized to discover the planet.
For the last two years Mazeh and Faigler have been searching for planets using high powered telescopes in orbit around planet Earth to measure starlight. According Einsteins theory of relativity the quality of starlight with a planet around it is different then a star with no orbiting planets. “This is the first time this aspect of Einstein’s theory of relativity was used in discovering a planet. We’ve been looking for this illusive effect for over two years, and now we’ve indeed found a planet with it,” said Mazeh.
He continued, “When a light source moves toward us, then according to relativity theory, the light gets stronger, and when it moves away from us, the light gets weaker. The change is very small, and can be seen only with a telescope that measures the intensity of light with high accuracy. Earth-based telescopes can’t actively detect planets, because of the need for accurate measurement. But they did succeed in confirming our finding, and discerned that the changes they detected were indeed caused by the existence of a planet orbiting the star under observation.”
According to Tel Aviv University, “Kepler-76b is in the Cygnus (swan) constellation, located 2,000 light-years away from Earth. Its mass is double that of Jupiter and it has an extremely close orbit to its sun, with a day and a half cycle. The planet is so close to its sun that it doesn’t rotate and is “locked” in one position, so that only one hemisphere is exposed to the sun. That side has a surface temperature of 2,000 degrees centigrade.”
Prof. Abi Loeb, an Israeli who heads Harvard’s astronomy department, and Prof. Scott Gaudi had in the past suggested that planets could be found utilizing this strategy, yet no one had implemented their theory in reality until Mazeh and his team at Tel Aviv University discovered this new planet. This project was funded by a grant from the European Research Council and included cooperation with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
By Rachel Avraham, staff writer for United With Israel