Einstein Said It Would Never Be Seen. It Just Was

Astronomers observe gravitational microlensing between distant stars
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2017 7:04 PM CDT
Updated Jun 9, 2017 12:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – Astronomers just proved the great Albert Einstein wrong—by proving him right. Einstein's 1915 theory of relativity says gravity can distort light and alter its path. National Geographic reports Einstein posited that would create a phenomenon called gravitational microlensing between two stars appearing to pass in front of each other. The light from the star in the background would be bent by the gravity of the star in the foreground, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Of course, there is no hope of observing this phenomenon directly," Einstein wrote for Science in 1936. Guess again, Einstein. Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope observed that very phenomena, publishing their findings in Science on Wednesday.

Astronomers had observed gravitational microlensing in the past using entire galaxies or the Sun, but never with individual distant stars, which are comparatively microscopic in size. The leader of the team that proved Einstein right/wrong says observing the phenomena with distant stars is like trying to see a firefly moving across a quarter from 1,500 miles away while a bright light bulb is glaring next to it. So, it's understandable Einstein was doubtful it would ever be seen. The observation allowed astronomers to measure the mass of a white dwarf star—about 68% that of the Sun—and confirm an 87-year-old theory about the stars, according to a press release. "Einstein would be proud," one astronomer says. (A 40-year-old signal from space has finally been explained.)

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