`Upside-down planet’ reveals new method of studying binary star systems

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 13:12

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: A student astronomer at the University of Washington has found an ‘upside-down planet’ which may pave way for new method of studying binary star systems.

Using the planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope, Ethan Kruse has confirmed that what essentially looked like an upside-down planet, is actually a system to study binary star systems.

“I found what essentially looked like an upside-down planet. What you normally expect is this dip in brightness, but what you see in this system is basically the exact opposite - it looks like an anti-transit,” said Kruse.
A binary star system is where two stars are so close that their gravitational interaction causes them to orbit about a common centre of mass.

The two stars of KOI-3278, about 2,600 light-years (a light-year is 5.88 trillion miles) away in the Lyra constellation, take turns being nearer to earth as they orbit each other every 88.18 days.

They are about 43 million miles apart, roughly the distance the planet Mercury is from the sun.

The white dwarf, a cooling star thought to be in the final stage of life, is about the earth’s size but 200,000 times more massive.
This finding improves on research in 2013 by the California Institute of Technology, which detected a similar self-lensing effect minus the brightening of the light because the two stars being studied were much closer together.

The paper has been published in journal Science.

(With Agencies inputs)

First Published: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 10:32

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