Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity Was Confirmed in a Distant Galaxy

Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity revolutionized how we understand space, time, and gravity. While most of us can only boast a surface-level understanding of the theory, it’s time to brush up on the game-changing concept, seeing as a new study was able to validate Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Led by Dr. Thomas Collett of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the UK’s University of Portsmouth, an international team of astronomers conducted what they say was the first test of general relativity on a large astronomical scale. “A Precise Extragalactic Test of General Relativity,” which was published in the journal Science on Thursday, found that gravity’s behavior in distant galaxies reflects that way gravity behaves in our solar system, just as Einstein’s theory predicted.

Einstein determined that distortions in spacetime are felt as gravity.

Article continues below

So what is the theory of general relativity? We first have to look at the physicist’s theory of special relativity, which Einstein introduced in his 1905 paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.” This is where Einstein first calculated the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) and posited that the laws of physics appear the same to all observers. These two principles would form the basis of special relativity, where Einstein deduced, in its simplest terms, that everything is moving relative to everything else.

Einstein’s theory of special relativity lays the groundwork for his 1915 theory of general relativity and its equivalence principle of observing gravity. From there, Einstein explores the ways in which spacetime, a mathematical model that joins space and time in a continuum, is curved by the presence of gravity, matter, energy, and momentum. It’s a geometric theory of how gravitation affects the energy that moves matter around and can be used to predict how much curvature is created by a mass.

To validate these tenets of general relativity, Collett’s team used data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and a technique called gravitational lensing, whereby a massive object acts like a lens by bending light so that the image of the background object is distorted. In this scenario, the researchers used galaxy ESO 325-G004 as their lens, which is roughly 500 million light-years from Earth.

The galaxy serving as a lens allowed Collett to measure the mass and curvature of the spacetime in the neighboring galaxy. By comparing the galaxy’s mass with the measured curvature of spacetime, the team found the mass of the galaxy to be what the theory of general relativity predicts.

While the team plans to study the spacetime curvature of other galaxies, their groundbreaking first study verifies that Einstein’s theory of general relativity can apply to matter outside of our solar system. Not only does this vindicate some long-held theories, it could be a boon for cosmologists in their quest to identify the location and characteristics of other galaxies.

Media via Michael Koppitz (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute)/Zuse Institute Berlin)

Most of the coffee we drink on a daily basis is grown in massive coffee farms that are carefully overseen by humans tasked with protecting the crucial caffeine source. But there are about 124 varieties of wild coffee that face constant threats, say the authors of two new papers in Science Advances and Global Change Biology. Those wild varieties are crucial for protecting our domestic coffee stocks, which are currently under threat.

Ah, young love. The first time you fall for someone, it can be dangerously easy to overlook the warning signs. For the first few months, your boyfriend might seem like the funniest, most creative, most insightful, and handsomest guy you’ve ever met. It won’t matter that he roots for the Mets or says vague stuff like that he’s “not from around here.” After some time together, though, you’ll start to spot your boyfriend’s little quirks. Maybe he picks his nose while watching TV, or maybe his skin heals faster than it should. The truth is, a lot of teenage boys are dirtbags in disguise. Some of them, however, are hiding something much stranger. Some are aliens.

Over the past 60 years, human ingenuity has allowed us to send Earthly objects into space. Unfortunately, it didn’t provide us with a way to clean it all up. Now, there’s a growing 500,000-piece heap of accidental “space junk” above our planet, some of which seriously threatens the valuable spacecraft, satellites, and modules that we rely on here on Earth. The rest of it is just weird, and occasionally kind of sweet.

SpaceX may test its Starship sooner than expected. CEO Elon Musk revealed via Twitter last week that the “hopper,” the test version of the company’s giant new rocket, may fly in just four weeks’ time, with the prospect of a delay to eight weeks’ time with unexpected delays.

The deadline sets SpaceX up for an impressive year, as the “hop tests” are an integral part of the company’s future plans, but until now the firm has only provided a vague deadline of 2019 for tests. The tests will involve sending the test rocket on jumps of a few hundred kilometers at the firm’s Boca Chica facility in Texas. A successful flight will pave the way for a manned mission to Mars, with Musk suggesting that the first humans could set foot on the red planet using the Starship as early as 2024. The rocket uses liquid oxygen and methane fuel, which means that astronauts can set up fueling stations to return home, or even travel to further planets with established recharge points on the way.

2018 was a record-breaking year for Elon Musk’s aerospace company. SpaceX has further cemented itself as the United States’ most prolific rocket firm by pulling off more launches than ever before and debuting the world’s most powerful operational launch system.

SpaceX ended 2018 by successfully launching a total of 21 rockets, one being the Falcon Heavy in February, which blasted one of Musk’s electric sports cars into space. The company also made massive strides toward rocket reusability with Falcon 9’s Block 5 upgrade and by sticking 12 of its 14 attempted first-stage booster landings.