Astrophysicists Conduct Most Precise Extrasolar Test Yet of Einstein's Gravity | Astronomy

This Hubble image shows the diverse collection of galaxies in the galaxy cluster Abell S0740. The giant elliptical galaxy ESO 325 G004 looms large at the cluster’s center. Image credit NASA  ESA  Hubble Heritage Team  STScI  AURA  J. Blakeslee Wa

"General relativity predicts that massive objects deform space-time", says astronomer Thomas Collett from the University of Portsmouth.

Also, dark matter and dark energy, two components of the Universe, that are not yet fully understood, seem to have an important role for the Einstein's theory of general relativity.

Well now, a team of researchers from the University of Portsmouth has taken this theory and tested it on a galactic scale, resulting in the most precise test of the theory ever conducted outside of the Milky Way.

"We used VLT data from to measure how fast the stars were moving in ESO 325-G004 - this let us infer how much mass there must be in this galaxy to hold these stars in orbit", Dr. Collett said.

The Hubble Space Telescope captured the gravitational lens from galaxy LRG 3-757.

A new study proves that Einstein's theory of gravity, the General Theory of Relativity, is valid in a distant galaxy 500 million light-years from Earth.

Together, astronomers from the United Kingdom and the US have overlaid observations from incredible distances to prove Albert Einstein's theory of General Relativity. To do this, physicists have calculated the mass of the galaxy and the basic properties of the "Einstein cross", which was formed due to the curvature of the light trapped in the gravitational lens.

In the known universe, scientists know of a few hundred strong gravitational lenses, but a lot of them are too distant to precisely measure their mass. ESO 325-G004 is one of the closest lenses, located just 450 million light-years from Earth. Scientists have measured this effect with high precision.

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It did this by measuring the movement of stars within this nearby elliptical galaxy.

The scientists used data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) to show that gravity in a distant galaxy behaves as GR predicts, confirming the theory's validity. "Assuming GR is correct, we interpret this as evidence for a mysterious dark energy that is driving this acceleration".

"The universe is an wonderful place, providing such lenses which we can use as our laboratories", said researcher Bob Nichol.

The standard model is a theory which describes how fundamental forces and particles in the universe work and behave together, and it aims to explain our observations and experiments.

The global team is comprised of: Thomas E. Collett (Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth, UK), Lindsay J. Oldham (Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, UK, and Harvard College, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, USA), Russell Smith (Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, University of Durham, UK), Matthew W. Auger (Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, UK), Kyle B. Westfall (ICG, Portsmouth, UK, and University of California, Santa Cruz, USA), David Bacon (ICG, Portsmouth, UK), Robert C. Nichol (ICG, Portsmouth, UK), Karen L. Masters (ICG, Portsmouth, UK), Kazuya Koyama (ICG, Portsmouth, UK) and Remco van den Bosch (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Garching, Germany).

Scientists test relativity by observing objects in space and seeing if their behaviors match up with Einstein's explanations of space-time and gravity, for instance by observing how light bends around massive objects as it travels towards Earth.

This research was presented in a paper entitled "A precise extragalactic test of General Relativity" by Collett et al., to appear in the journal Science.

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