Astronomers prove Einstein right: Stars can warp light

In a new study published today in Science, researchers achieved a rare event — simultaneously proving Albert Einstein both right and wrong. The scientists were able to confirm one of Einstein’s theories, something even he wasn’t sure would be possible.

The study centers around an effect called gravitational microlensing. And the idea is that supermassive objects, such as stars, can bend light that passes by them. The object’s gravity actually works as a sort of lens, warping the direction of the passing light. Einstein predicted this in his theory of general relativity, but because observing that effect requires a very specific set of parameters to line up perfectly, he thought we’d never be able to observe it directly.

But pessimism got the better of Einstein here and because our technology is way better than what it was during his time, these microlensing effects are now detectable.

Researchers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope watched a white dwarf star — the leftover core of a star nearing the end of its life — pass in front of another distant star. When it did, the white dwarf appeared to push the other star out of its way. It didn’t actually do that, though. The white dwarf’s gravity just warped the light of the background star, making it look like the light jumped out of the way. It’s the first time this effect has been seen from stars other than the Sun.

In addition to just being really cool, this new technique also allows astronomers to measure the mass of the star doing the warping. The intensity of the light-deflection can help scientists determine the object’s mass and gravity. In the study, they were able to get the mass of the white dwarf based on this effect, which they hadn’t been able to successfully do before.

Watch the video below for more information on the study and what the findings mean for future research.

Source: Science

Source: Engadget - Read the full article here

Author: Daily Tech Whip

This article is part of our 'News Tiles' service. The site is currently in Beta. When it is fully operational you will be able to search through and arrange the 'Tiles' to display a keyword, product or technology over your chosen time period. For example you would be able to display all of the leading tech articles on the new Kindle Fire, in one spot in real time. You will also have access to our own original reporting and analysis as well as a polished place to post your own thoughts & reviews here, amongst the Daily Tech Whip Community. Please let us know if you have any feedback via the contact form or via Twitter. Don't forget to come back next week and see our full site and claim your name and your own free tech blog.

Share This Post On