Spacetime

3 experiments that prove Einstein’s theory of relativity

Over and over again, nature confirms Einstein's revolutionary theory of relativity

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105 years ago, Albert Einstein published the theory of general relativity. It explained the interactions between massive objects in space.

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Very simply, the theory describes the universe in terms of “spacetime,” which can be warped by massive objects, causing our experience of gravity.

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Over the years, scientists have tried to test and confirm Einstein’s revolutionary theory.

Here are 3 of those experiments.

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Gravitational Waves

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In 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory detected gravitational waves produced by 2 black holes colliding 1.3 billion years ago.

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Einstein’s theory of relativity depended on the existence of such waves, and scientists had been looking for them for decades.

Stars orbiting supermassive black holes

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In 2017, scientists studying a star in orbit around the Milky Way’s central supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*, discovered the star deviated from its orbital path in way contrary to classical physics.

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Rather, the star’s orbit matches what would be predicted by general relativity.

Gravitational Lensing

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According to general relativity, even light can be bent by the gravity of massive objects. That means our view of distant stars or galaxies would be warped by massive objects in front of them, a concept called gravitational lensing.

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Solar eclipses help confirm this theory. Scientists can note the position of distant stars before a solar eclipse, then observe them when the Sun’s face is blocked out by the Moon.

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When those stars’ positions seem to shift...that’s gravitational lensing in action.

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The first time gravitational lensing was observed according to Einstein’s prediction was during the 1919 solar eclipse, just four years after he published his theory.

Read more space stories here.

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