• iillustration of a blue planet near a yellow sun
    This illustration shows how the planet HAT-P-2b, left, appears to cause heartbeat-like pulsations in its host star, HAT-P-2.
    Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

JPL News: Spitzer Hears Stellar "Heartbeat" from Planetary Companion

A planet and a star are having a tumultuous romance that can be detected from 370 light-years away.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has detected unusual pulsations in the outer shell of a star called HAT-P-2. Scientists' best guess is that a closely orbiting planet, called HAT-P-2b, causes these vibrations each time it gets close to the star in its orbit.

"Just in time for Valentine's Day, we have discovered the first example of a planet that seems to be causing a heartbeat-like behavior in its host star," said Julien de Wit, postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. A study describing the findings was published today in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The star's pulsations are the most subtle variations of light from any source that Spitzer has ever measured. A similar effect had been observed in binary systems called "heartbeat stars" in the past, but never before between a star and a planet.

Read the full story at JPL News

JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech, which manages JPL for NASA.