BEACON TRANSCRIPT – The Spitzer Space Telescope helped astronomers notice an exoplanet that has a strange influence on its star when the planet comes close to it on its orbit. What the astronomers observed were some vibrations that resembled a heartbeat that the star emits most probably under the influence of the exoplanet in question.
The star, called HAT-P-2, is situated 370 light-years away from us. The researchers noticed that it sent vibrations every 87 minutes. They suspect that the planet is the one that makes the star pulsate, although it takes 5.8 days to complete an orbit around the star. They are sure of the link that exists between the two, but cannot explain the phenomenon.
The phenomenon of a star making another star pulsate is not now, but the same process happening with a star and a planet is. They named the exoplanet after the star, HAT-P-2b. It has an elliptical orbit and is more massive than Earth, having a gravitational pull almost 24 times bigger than ours.
Julien Wit, researcher at MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, is the one who led the study. He and his team analyzed almost 350 hours of data collected by the telescope to come to these conclusions.
As an attempt to explain the peculiar phenomenon, the researchers made some hypotheses. When the exoplanet gets the closest to the star on the orbit, it is located 4.9 million miles away. They suspect that this is when the exoplanet accumulates great amounts of heat from the star. Then it starts emitting it as it goes further from the star.
However, the exoplanet is quite small compared to its star (the equivalent of 100th part of the star) and this is quite small for a planet to have such a huge impact on its host. Also, the researchers actually thought that planets cannot affect their stars, but this situation proves them wrong.
Moreover, the researchers did not identify any variability in the orbit of the planet. They saw that the pulsation patterns of the star match the orbital frequency of the planet, so they must have a tidal origin.
Such tidal effects in the pulsation patterns of stars have only been caused by other stars. This is the first time when an exoplanet wields such an influence on a star.
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