A new study conducted by a team of international researchers has revealed that Einstein’s general relativity theory has successfully passed its most difficult test ever.
The general relativity theory that was introduced in 1916, claims, gravity is the result of the inherent flexibility of space-time. Just like all other scientific theories, this theory also has some testable predictions, the most essential of which is the “equivalence principle.” According to the notion of this principle, all objects tend to fall in a similar way, regardless of their size and composition.
This principle has been previously confirmed many times. Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott, in 1971, dropped a hammer and a feather simultaneously. The time at which they hit the “gray lunar dirt” was the same.
However, it is not easy to confirm if this principle holds good in every situation, like in case the involved objects are extremely massive or dense. The new study has nevertheless proved that the principle is true for all cases.
The researchers tested this principle by analyzing a system called PSR J0337+1715, consisting of 2 “superdense stellar corpses” called white dwarfs along with a much denser “neutron star” called pulsar. The “inner white dwarf” and the pulsar are extremely distinct objects. However, they must be pulled in a similar manner by the “outer white dwarf” for the equivalence principle to hold good.
The astronomers tracked the movements of the pulsar by observing the radio-waves emitted by it. This was done for 6 years with the help of the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope in the Netherlands, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
The head of the study, Anne Archibald at the University of Amsterdam, said in a statement, “We can account for every single pulse of the neutron star since we began our observations.” Further, the researcher explained, “And we can tell its location to within a few hundred meters. That is a really precise track of where the neutron star has been and where it is going.”
Any violation of this principle would signify a deformation in the orbit of the pulsar. However, no such deformation was detected by the researchers.
The finding of this new study has been published in the Nature journal on Wednesday 4th July.