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Astronomers use neutron stars to justify Einstein’s famous theory

5 Jul 2018, 09:15 UTC
Astronomers use neutron stars to justify Einstein’s famous theory
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Artist impression of the triple star system PSR J0337+1715, which is located about 4,200 light-years from Earth. Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF; S. Dagnello
Harnessing the exquisite sensitivity of the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT), astronomers have given one of Einstein’s predictions on gravity its most stringent test yet. By precisely tracking the meanderings of three stars in a single system – two white dwarf stars and one ultra-dense neutron star – the researchers determined that even phenomenally compact neutron stars “fall” in the same manner as their less-dense counterparts, an aspect of nature called the “Strong Equivalence Principle.”
Einstein’s understanding of gravity, as outlined in his general theory of relativity, predicts that all objects fall at the same rate, regardless of their mass or composition. This theory has passed test after test here on Earth, but does it still hold true for some of the most massive and dense objects in the known universe, an aspect of nature known as the Strong Equivalence Principle. An international team of astronomers has given this lingering question its most stringent test ever. Their findings, published in the journal Nature, show that Einstein’s insights into gravity still hold sway, even in one of the ...

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