Astronomers are Witnessing the Dragging of Space-Time in all its Glory

As Einstein proved around a century ago, time is not the same throughout the Universe as humanity had initially thought. Time is relative, it’s not the same for us as it is for a hypothetical alien civilization that exists in another galaxy. Time itself had a beginning, and it’s strongly related to space.

In order to prove the strong connection between time and space, the notorious astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson once said that if you ask a friend to meet you at a certain place, he will immediately ask you “When?”. And if you only tell him to meet you at a certain time, he will ask “Where?”. Thus, it’s logical that time and space are somehow equivalent, and many scientists are referring to them by the single noun “spacetime”.

Frame-dragging detected at large scale

According to Einstein, any object that contains mass drags the fabric of spacetime around it. This is frame-dragging by definition. But in our everyday lives, the effect is practically undetectable. You have to switch your attention to the big stuff out there like planets, stars and galaxies to notice the frame-dragging in all its glory. But of course, you also need some fancy tools for that.

PSR J1141-6545 is the star of the show today. Well, not really a star since it’s actually a pulsar. It orbits a white dwarf at staggering speeds – 620,000 mph, and one full orbit lasts for 5 hours. The two celestial objects are orbiting so close to each other that the gap is somewhere about the size of our sun.

In a study led by Vivek Venkatraman Krishnan, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, scientists concluded that the pulsar and the white dwarf are causing the frame-dragging. They had been using the Parkes and UTMOST radio telescopes in Australia to measure the pulses from the pulsar, and thus they detected a long-term drift in the way the pulsar and the white dwarf dance around each other.

The author of the study, Mr. Vivek Venkatraman Krishnan, stated:

Systems like PSR J1141-6545, where the pulsar is younger than the white dwarf, are quite rare,

The new study confirms a long-standing hypothesis of how this binary system came to be, something that was proposed over two decades ago.

Therefore, if you needed one more reason to believe that Einstein was right with his Theory of General Relativity, here you have it. The findings have been published in the journal Science.

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