Star system further confirms Einstein's theory

A new star system further solidifies Einstein's famous theory.
By Joseph Scalise | Jan 14, 2019
Einstein's famous theory of relativity has just survived another galactic test, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.

While there are many aspects to the theory of relativity, one section is that all objects, regardless of mass, fall at the same rate. That is apart of the Strong Equivalence Principle, and it applies to all objects in the known universe.

For example, both Earth and Jupiter "fall" at the same rate towards the sun despite the fact that they have different masses.

Though the principle has been tested in numerous conditions, its most rigorous trial yet came from a recent study conducted by a team of international scientists who applied it to a rare star system that sits 4,200 light years from Earth.

In the study, the team analyzed the system, known as PSR J0337+1715, and found that it consists of a neutron star in a 1.6 day orbit around a white dwarf that is also in a 327-day orbit around a second, more distant white dwarf.

A neutron star is the remains of a star that has exploded and collapsed in on itself. That leads to extreme density that pushes the limits of Einstein's principle of gravity. Not only that, but the two white dwarfs noted in the study further those stakes because they do not have a lot of gravity and often would not be able to survive the death of a star.

"This is a unique star system," said studyco-author Ryan Lynch, a researcher at Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, in a statement. "We don't know of any others quite like it. That makes it a one-of-a-kind laboratory for putting Einstein's theories to the test."

The team took a closer look at the system and found that the inner stars accelerated at the same speed. That provides some of the strongest evidence of Einstein's theory to date. In addition, the second white dwarf did not affect the inner star movement at all.

They made that discovery by breaking down the neutron star's movements as it steadily spun into a pulsar over the course of six years.

Noting that process, if the star accelerated at a different rate than the white dwarf, the team expected to the star's pulses arriving at times different from what they expected. However, they matched up almost perfectly with the predictions.

That reveals that Einstein's theory is likely correct and that, despite the naysayers, gravity is likely curved. Though the discovery does not definitively prove the theory of relativity in one way or another, it is a large move towards better understanding of the universe.

The next step is to look at objects that exist on a much smaller scale.

"We've done better with this system than previous tests by a factor of 10," said studyco-author and physicist David Kaplan, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, according to Tech Times. "But it's not an ironclad answer. Reconciling gravity with quantum mechanics is still unresolved."

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