For the first time, astronomers from MIT and elsewhere have observed a star pulsing in response to its orbiting planet.
The star, which goes by the name HAT-P-2, is about 400 light years from Earth and is circled by a gas giant measuring eight times the mass of Jupiter — one of the most massive exoplanets known today. The planet, named HAT-P-2b, tracks its star in a highly eccentric orbit, flying extremely close to and around the star, then hurtling far out before eventually circling back around.
The researchers analyzed more than 350 hours of observations of HAT-P-2 taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, and found that the star’s brightness appears to oscillate ever so slightly every 87 minutes. In particular, the star seems to vibrate at exact harmonics, or multiples of the planet’s orbital frequency — the rate at which the planet circles its star. … (MIT)