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Space Science

Kepler Watches White Dwarf Warp Spacetime 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the bend-and-stretch dept.
astroengine writes "The Kepler space telescope's prime objective is to hunt for small worlds orbiting distant stars, but that doesn't mean it's not going to detect some extreme relativistic phenomena along the way. While monitoring a red dwarf star — designated KOI-256 — astronomers detected a dip in starlight in the Kepler data. But it wasn't caused by an exoplanet. After some careful detective work, the researchers found that the red dwarf was actually in orbit around a binary partner — a white dwarf. As the white dwarf passed in front of the red dwarf, the starlight was enhanced by microlensing — a phenomenon caused by an intense gravitational field focusing light from behind. This had the counter-intuitive result of causing the starlight to dim when the white dwarf passed behind the red dwarf and then brighten as the white dwarf passed in front. This is one of the first discoveries of a binary partner through microlensing. 'Only Kepler could detect this tiny, tiny effect,' said Doug Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington. 'But with this detection, we are witnessing Einstein's theory of general relativity at play in a far-flung star system.'"
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Kepler Watches White Dwarf Warp Spacetime

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  • Anticipation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by damm0 (14229) on Friday April 05, 2013 @03:18AM (#43366371) Homepage Journal

    Since the current Kepler has produced stunning science, I sure hope they put another one up when this one conks out thanks to losing the last of its gyroscopes. It's a shame that Kepler is facing a crash just as it is hitting stride.

  • by tgd (2822) on Friday April 05, 2013 @08:10AM (#43367263)

    BTW, #2 is why this is so hard, looking out at our galaxy, it's crowded out there!

    For an 'On Earth Analogy', it would be like trying to spot a specific, individual tree in the most densely populated forest on earth, from Mars(or thereabouts).

    IIRC, there's not particularly good evidence that the plane upon which planets form have anything other than a loose association to the plane of the galaxy. (And, they wouldn't need to be much off from it for a planet to almost never pass in front of the star. If you were looking at our sun along the plane of Pluto's orbit, the odds are almost zero that you're at the exact position in which the other planets are going to transit the star -- in almost any direction, the point the two planes cross will be to one side or the other of the star.

    But IANAA.

  • Re:Laws of Physics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mabhatter654 (561290) on Friday April 05, 2013 @09:04AM (#43367483)

    The micro lens effect is interesting because observing it proves Einstien's theory that mass and gravity "warp" space and time. My kid was watching history channel about this just last week... It was incredibly hard to find an event that could prove the theory true, AND take measurements with 1910-era equipment.... This was THE meal or break observation for Einstien's theory of General Relativity.
    And now we have telescopes that find these events "just lying around" the galaxy.

What ever you want is going to cost a little more than it is worth. -- The Second Law Of Thermodynamics

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