The arrangement of two rotating, compact stars made it possible for scientists to verify key statements in Einstein’s theory of relativity: his earlier assumptions were accurate with greater accuracy.
Einstein’s general theory of relativity is more than 100 years old – however, 16 years of study of “over-behaving” stars shows that it is still the most appropriate explanation for gravity.
An international team of scientists, including scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the University of Manchester in Great Britain, studied the so-called pulse pair with seven radio telescopes. Pulsars are particularly dense and compact rotating stars. Through the investigation, the researchers wanted to find out if there were behaviors that were not obscured by Einstein’s theoretical work.
In a practical experiment “Einstein’s theory of general relativity”
Although they discovered relativistic effects never seen before, these phenomena were already suspected and drawn up in Einstein’s theoretical writing published in 1915 – also known as the geometric theory of gravity.
“We know that Einstein’s general relativity is as spectacularly successful as it is not the last word in the theory of gravity,” said Robert Fertman, a professor at the UEA School of Physics, explaining the reasons for the research. “For more than 100 years, scientists around the world have continued their efforts to find flaws in his theory,” says Newsweek, which originally published the report at the end of the research.
The team decided to use pulsars to diagnose these defects. According to Fertmann, the primary author of the article describing the study published in Physics Review X, Pulsar is a highly magnetized rotating small star that emits electromagnetic rays from magnetic poles.
Care of double pulsar
“They are heavier than our sun, but about 15 miles wide, so they are incredibly dense objects that create radio waves that spread like lighthouses in the sky,” Fertman continued in an interview with Newsweek.
The researchers chose to observe a double pulsar discovered by team members in 2003, and its observation refers to what Fertmann calls “the most accurate laboratory we currently have for testing Einstein’s theory.”
The dual pulsar observed by the crew consists of two pulsars orbiting each other at a speed of 580,000 km / h in 147 minutes.
This allows the movements of the pulsars around each other and their incredibly strong gravitational fields to provide an almost perfect gravity laboratory.
Throwing the ball on the trampoline
The general relativity states that the mass of an object decomposes the tissues of space-time, and that large masses have a greater effect on curvature. A common analogy used by physicists to describe this is to place a marble and bowling ball on a trampoline.
The bowling ball forms a large abyss, and the path it takes is curved as the marble passes through it.
Light does the same thing when it passes through a black hole or a massive cosmic object like these pulsars.
Ingrid Stares, a professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, explained what observing the pulsar’s emitting light showed him and his colleagues. “We see for the first time how light is delayed by the strong curve of space-time around the mate, but we also see light being diverted at a small angle of 0.04 degrees that we can see.”
Effect of time extension
In addition, the team of scientists was able to test several predictions of general relativity, including the effect of time expansion – the elongation of time by enormous gravitational fields – and, for example, the change in orientation of the orbit.
“Such an experiment has never been done before with such a high space-time curve,” Stairs added in an interview with Newsweek.
Physicists are constantly searching for the physical properties of the universe that are not described by general relativity, because although the theory is successful in describing the physics of really massive bodies in gravity and space, it cannot be fully reconciled with quantum physics.
That is, gravity, one of the four fundamental forces of the universe, is different from the other three – electromagnetism and strong and weak nuclear forces – all of which are integrated into quantum physics.
The “integrated theory” of physics
According to Newsweek, “it’s important to test the general theory of relativity as strictly as possible to find out when and how the theory breaks down,” Fertman said.
“Any deviation from general relativity would be an important discovery that would open a window to new physics beyond our current theoretical understanding of the universe.”
Fertman argues that this will eventually lead to the “integrated theory” of physics, which provides a complete description of the forces of the universe that physicists such as Stephen Hawking have been searching for throughout their lives.
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