Einstein’s theories continue to assist physicists and astronomers in new and surprising ways, including a new way to discover exoplanets based on one of Einstein’s theories about how light coming towards you is slightly warped by space-time into a narrow, brighter beam than it really is.
One of Einstein’s weirder ideas has led to the identification of a new planet, about twice as massive as Jupiter, orbiting a star some 2,000 light-years from Earth — a discovery Einstein never even envisioned but one that may never have happened without him. Indeed, David Latham, a Harvard astronomer who collaborated on the discovery, originally doubted it was even possible to do what he (under Einstein’s guiding hand) recently succeeded in doing. “I thought it was silly,” he says. “I thought the effect was so small we’d never detect it.”
The effect in question is “relativistic beaming,” and it dictates that when a bright object is coming right at you, the warping of spacetime caused by that motion will force its light into a narrower, more focused beam that looks brighter than it really is. While Einstein never suggested using that phenomenon to look for planets, Latham’s Harvard colleague Avi Loeb and Ohio State’s Scott Gaudi did, in a theoretical paper published in 2003.
Their reasoning: as a planet orbits its star, its gravity pulls on the star, first one way, then the other. If the planet is lined up more or less edge-on from the perspective of Earth, that pulling will yank the star toward Earth, then away. When it’s coming toward Earth, relativistic beaming will make the star look brighter, and when it’s moving away, it should get dimmer.
trying out some new things
The current space suit design has changed some since the 1960s, having gotten some add-ons and minor modifications, but it’s basically the same suit. This is the next-gen space suit, NASA’s Z1. Oooh shiny.