One couldn’t have imagined a time when the world’s greatest physicist Albert Einstein’s belief in his own theory of general relativity is put to test by the astronomers, only to get positive results contradicting the physicist’s beliefs.
Decades ago, Albert Einstein had published his theory of general relativity. On being asked if the concept could be used to calculate the weight of the star, he replied with affirmation. He proposed that if one star is aligned with the other one, the closer star’s mass would distort the light of the star behind it. The degree of that distortion can be further used to measure the weight of the star. However, he added that theoretically, it was possible but doubted whether it would carry out desired results if tested.
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With the kind of telescopes that existed 81 years ago, there was no chance of seeking any contradiction in his research findings. But with the advancement in technology, telescope such as Hubble Space have enabled astronomers to view even galaxies in the making, 10 billion light years away.
As the stars re-positioned in March 2014, there came an opportunity when the theory could be put to test. According to the findings by the astronomers, Stein 2051B, a white dwarf positioned itself about 18 light-years away from the Earth, in front of a more distant background star. Since white dwarfs are cooling remnants of dead stars, the mass was thicker and denser. It acted as a perfect field to conduct the tests.
As mentioned by Einstein in his theory, the gravity of the massive object will make the star act like a lens, refracting the light as it passes by. This is called 'Gravitational Lensing'. This concept was used to measure the deviation on the background star that appeared to move by milliarcseconds (a unit used to measure distance in space). The astronomers used this deviation to calculate the weight of the star, and to their surprise the results were positive.
With this impeccable achievement in the field of science, the astronomers recorded their findings in the Science Journal and presented the same at an American Astronomical Society meeting. Their findings put Einstein’s belief to rest that his theory of general relativity will not be able to calculate the weight of the star.