From November 10, 2018
EXCLUSIVE: Physicist Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity is “fraying around the edges” and requires revision, according to an eminent astrophysicist probing a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.
Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which he published in 1916, is one of the towering achievements of 20th-century physics.
Einstein’s theory of gravity: The legendary scientist’s grand theory seems to require revision (Image: Getty)
The Austrian physicist’s theory explains what we perceive as gravity arises from the curvature of space and time. All masses create gravity and the greater an object is the more gravity it has. But an astronomer thinks the theory is in need of an update and the key could be hidden in a supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way.
Professor Andrea Ghez, who led a 20-year-long black hole experiment, thinks there are a number of shortcomings in Einstein’s theories that need to be tackled.
She said: “Exploring the universe offers an opportunity to see the most extreme forms of gravity, what we are seeing today is Einstein’s ideas don’t completely explain everything. You can hark back to the days of Newton – who had the previous best description of gravity –and at some point we realized we had to move beyond Newton, to get a more complete vision. It is not to say these ideas are wrong, it is they are too simple – they don’t explain how gravity or the universe works in all conditions. As we explore these more and more extreme conditions we see that there is something missing.”
Einstein theory of gravity: Scientists have studied the gravitational effects of a black hole (Image: Getty)
The research team used cutting-edge optic technology to measure the orbits of stars near the middle of our Milky Way.
Timescales in astrophysics are really long, for instance, the Sun takes 200 million years to go around our galaxy.
But the closer you get to the heart of the galaxy, the shorter the time scales become.
Professor Ghez explained: “We were able to probe close enough to be able to see stars in orbit on a decade timescale. There is a star I like to call S0-2 and it goes round every 16 years. It is a star that gave the very first evidence that supermassive black holes really do exist. You watch it go around once and it increased the evidence of black holes by a factor of 10 million by this experiment.”
Einstein gravity theory: What we perceive as gravity arises from the curvature of space and time (Image: Getty)
Einstein gravity theory: Could the theory be in need of an update? (Image: Getty)
This 16-year-long mapping of S0-2’s orbit allowed the team to test how gravity works near a supermassive black hole – a mysterious object weighing some 4 million suns.
Professor Ghez said: “We were looking for a slight hesitation of how you perceive a star to move as it goes through its closest approach to the black hole.”
“That happened this past summer, and that hesitation tells us how gravity is co-mingling space and time. We have basically opened up a new approach to studying supermassive black holes through the orbits of stars.”
And the researchers’ projected results are far from being only of academic interest, Professor Ghez added.
She said: “If we didn’t have Einstein’s theory of general relativity programmed into our phones they wouldn’t work. And so much of what take for granted today was explored as some hypothetical idea that had no clear application.”
Einstein theory of gravity: Timescales in astrophysics are really long (Image: Getty)
Einstein theory of gravity: The team has opened up a new approach to studying black holes (Image: Getty)
“People once thought early experiments with electricity were a frivolous pursuit – now we can’t imagine the universe without electricity. We pursue these ideas because we want to fundamentally understand how the universe works. Ultimately these lead to applications which we can’t anticipate.”
Collected at: http://www.thescinewsreporter.com/2018/11/was-einstein-wrong-scientists-probe.html