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Space Science

Astronomers Prove To Einstein That Stars Can Warp Light (theverge.com) 96

Astronomers have observed for the first time ever a distant star warp the light of another star, "making it seem as though the object changed its position in the sky," reports The Verge. The discovery is especially noteworthy as Albert Einstein didn't think such an observation would be possible. From the report: These events require stars that are very far apart to line up perfectly. That's why Einstein once wrote that "there is no hope of observing this phenomenon directly." Our telescope technology has become far more sophisticated than in Einstein's day -- which is what allowed us to observe something he thought we'd never see. In 2014, a group of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope spotted a rare type of microlensing, when a dense white dwarf star passed in front of another star thousands of light-years away. The stars weren't exactly aligned, but they were close enough that the white dwarf made it seem like the background star performed a small loop in the sky. "It looks like the white dwarf pushed it out of the way," Terry Oswalt, an astronomer at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University who was not involved in this discovery but wrote a perspective piece in Science, tells The Verge. "That's not what happened, of course. It just looks like that." The astronomers also used the apparent movement of the background star to measure the mass of the passing white dwarf, a novel technique detailed in a paper published today in Science. And they say this isn't the last time they'll make measurements like this either. Now that they've figured out how to spot these kinds of lensing events, they're hoping to find even more with new ground- and space-based telescopes that are coming online soon.
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Astronomers Prove To Einstein That Stars Can Warp Light

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  • Not (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rodia ( 1031082 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @03:12AM (#54574919)
    The sun is a star, and the light-bending capacity of that thing has been demonstrated quite a while ago. Also, proving something to somebody dead is not possible. Are these headlines intentional bait for wisesh*ts?
    • Re:Not (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 08, 2017 @04:10AM (#54575075)

      The headline is worse than that. It implies that Einstein didn't believe in the existence of the phenomenon in question, which is a pretty ridiculous implication. A much more accurate headline might have been something along the lines of "Astronomers Demonstrate Observability of Light Warping Via Previously Impractical Means." -PCP

      • by Anonymous Coward

        BREAKING NEWS: Some things that weren't possible in 1919 are possible in 2017.

        • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
          Lots of things stay pretty impossible. Would be fucking weird to suggest otherwise.
        • BREAKING NEWS: Some things that weren't possible in 1919 are possible in 2017.

          ... whereas other things were possible in 1919, but are no longer now. Such as reading comprehension.

      • One could argue that we, humans, did not 'directly observe' it, we indirectly observed it through equipment that directly observed it, thus old Albert is still right.
        • by fazig ( 2909523 )
          And that one would be using quite the Flat-Earther logic. Many things that Einstein's work predicts cannot be observed through our natural senses directly. Too small are most of the things to be noticed in our everyday life. Yet we can see them indirectly through machines that provide some visualization of the phenomenons that are comprehensible for us.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          You believe that's air you are breathing?

      • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @08:45AM (#54575901) Journal

        The headline is worse than that. It implies that Einstein didn't believe in the existence of the phenomenon in question...

        Oh it's even worse because the reason Einstein (and everyone else) believed his theory of general relativity was correct was due to the Arthur Eddington's expedition [wikipedia.org] to view the solar eclipse of 1919 where he observed that the sun bent the light of a distant star changing its apparent position!

        What is even more insane is that both the articles linked in the summary start out mentioning this 1919 observation proving that the submitter either never read the articles he was submitting or did not understand what they were talking about. This article is clearly a contender for the most ignorant article on slashdot award.

    • Re:Not (Score:5, Informative)

      by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @05:55AM (#54575375) Homepage

      The fact that they still use Einstein's name in clickbait headlines is tribute to his genius.

      When he said "there is no hope of observing this phenomenon directly" he probably meant "there is no hope of us observing this phenomenon directly", not "there is no hope of ever observing this phenomenon directly"

      People observed the sun bending light in 1919 - well inside Einstein's lifetime.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        He may well have meant there is no hope of ever observing the phenomenon directly. In 1920 there was considerable argument about whether certain "nebula" were independent galaxies or just parts of our own, and a comprehensive star survey was being prepared... containing a quarter of a million stars.

        Without modern telescope technology, CCD cameras, computers, and a knowledge of just how many stars there are, it would be nearly impossible to detect that kind of effect in reasonable timeframes. Also, in 1920

      • The fact that they still use Einstein's name in clickbait headlines is tribute to his genius.

        When he said "there is no hope of observing this phenomenon directly" he probably meant "there is no hope of us observing this phenomenon directly", not "there is no hope of ever observing this phenomenon directly"

        People observed the sun bending light in 1919 - well inside Einstein's lifetime.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        And he certainly didn't think that the phenomenon was impossible, as seems to have been reported or implied by much of the media.

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
      Thanks. Yeah "prove to Einstein" basically proves that the headline writer is a complete mong.
    • Yeah, they didn't mention what his reaction was.

      Is this just a novice mistake, English-as-not-mother-tongue or just general incompetence?

      Or maybe it's an intentional error designed to solicit comments like this, as you speculate. Too many people shrieking for attention these days, so they gotta try new ways of scamming you into clicking. It's sad, really.
    • How long have we observed gravitational lensing [wikipedia.org] again? The theory was in place

      A gravitational lens is a distribution of matter (such as a cluster of galaxies) between a distant light source and an observer, that is capable of bending the light from the source as the light travels towards the observer. This effect is known as gravitational lensing, and the amount of bending is one of the predictions of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity. (Classical physics also predicts the bending of light, but only half that predicted by general relativity.) Although either Orest Khvolson (1924) or Frantisek Link (1936) is sometimes credited as being the first to discuss the effect in print, the effect is more commonly associated with Einstein, who published a more famous article on the subject in 1936.

      Fritz Zwicky posited in 1937 that the effect could allow galaxy clusters to act as gravitational lenses. It was not until 1979 that this effect was confirmed by observation of the so-called "Twin QSO" SBS 0957+561.

      I know that there's a tradition here of being late with the news, but THAT late?

    • Matter of fact, /. would have been much better off to copy the corresponding story in Soylent...

    • Plus, the headline makes it look like Einstein didn't believe stars could bend light of other stars, when what he doubted was our ability to observe it.

  • Wtf? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thesupraman ( 179040 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @03:14AM (#54574927)

    Let's see.
    Einstein isn't going to get anything proven to him. He is dead.
    However, he showed that this should be true, why would it need to be proven to him?
    Let alone the fact that gravitational lensing, which uses this exact effect, is a common technique these days.

    What is the point?

    • Re:Wtf? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TimothyHollins ( 4720957 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @04:06AM (#54575057)

      All the stupidity in the text can be explained with two words - "The Verge"

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      It builds on the hype around Genius (U.S. TV series) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:Wtf? (Score:5, Informative)

      by enriquevagu ( 1026480 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @05:33AM (#54575309)

      Very good question, because of the quite bad headline.

      At the time of writing his original paper [sciencemag.org] regarding light bending between two stars, Einstein was already sure that the light-bending effect occurs (it had been already observed during a solar eclipse in 1919 [wikipedia.org]). However, he assumed that it would never be observable with two stars, one in the background and other in the foreground (different to the sun) because the light of the two stars would merge and not be distinguishable. From his paper (full copy here [to.infn.it]): Of course, there is no hope of observing this phenomenon directly. First, we shall scarcely ever approach closely enough to such a central line. Second, the angle b will defy the resolving power of our instruments [...]".

      The relevant contribution is that current science (Hubble resolution) and appropriate search has managed to observe this effect. In particular, the linked overview clarifies it: Because the foreground star observed by Sahu et al. was about 400 times brighter than the background star, the brightening of their combined light was far too small to be detectable even with Hubble. However, the apparent displacement in the background star’s position, so-called “astrometric lensing,” was measurable. The interesting part is that by measuring the displacement of light, they have been also able to measure the mass of the star, and determine that it is not an exotic "iron core" white dwarf.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      Einstein isn't going to get anything proven to him. He is dead.

      Really?
      How about time travel :)

      Yes I know, just as stupid as the thing you pointed out.

      Ironically today I got up the the bit in Greg Egan's SF novel "The Arrows of Time" where some characters take a twelve year side trip to try to observe gravitational lensing.

  • Are you serious? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jimtheowl ( 4200185 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @03:14AM (#54574929)
    May 29 1919 is very, very old news.
    • That's because this dupe got time-warped by gravity time dilation.
      (The distant star is massive, after all)

    • by edx93 ( 4858619 )

      May 29 1919 is very, very old news.

      well, this is Slashdot...

    • by Toad-san ( 64810 )

      I've been faithfully watching the "Genius" TV series, and they made it very clear (last week I think) that a friend of Einstein definitively proved his Theory of Relativity was correct by photographing a solar eclipse down off Africa Madagascar or some such. Yeah, 1919 or so, just after the end of WW I.

      Besides, I don't like that statement:

      "It looks like the white dwarf pushed it out of the way," Terry Oswalt, an astronomer at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University who was not involved in this discove

  • Einstein said such thing (light warping) happens but there was no hope (no probability) to see that. And you know what? He was right, as far as his whole life. So, even dead, there's nothing to "prove" to him that he didn't prove already.

    This case is the similar (but not the same) with Higgs' Bosom, Higgs tought he would be dead before proving the existence of his bosom. He was wrong.

  • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @03:47AM (#54574997)

    1) The term "prove to" implies that Einstein believed that such lensing doesn't happen.
    2) Einstein is dead, so no scientists are proving anything to him.

  • by skam240 ( 789197 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @03:57AM (#54575025)

    Oh man, that Einstein, what a dummy.

  • No shit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by locater16 ( 2326718 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @04:12AM (#54575081)
    No shit? This was proven like, a century ago. And astronomers have been using gravitational lensing as a kind of natural telescope for years now. Somehow a direct observation of star to star lensing hasn't been seen before, so uhhh, cool I guess. But this isn't a scientific discovery by any means.
    • by edx93 ( 4858619 )
      No, it's not. In fact, both the title and summary are moronically wrong. The crux of the article is that they used gravitational lensing to explain some weird stellar phenomena. I don't blame you for not having read TFA, I just did to kill time...
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Thursday June 08, 2017 @06:27AM (#54575429) Journal
    Proofs are possible only in mathematics. No amount of affirming observations is considered proof. One counter observation is enough to disprove.

    Einstein developed the Theory of Relativity, calculated what would be observed. The apparent angular displacement due to such micro lensing turned out to be so small, he said, "such a small displacement is unlikely to be observed". He is right, even after this observation, no terrestrial telescope can hope to observe this. You need to get a telescope the size of a school bus into orbit, install a contact lens to that telescope in orbit, and point it at the right spot to see it.

    • Jean Cretien, former Prime Minister of Canada, would like to have a word with you...

      "A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven. [brainyquote.com]" - Jean Chretien
    • Proofs are possible only in mathematics.

      But disproof by counterexample is always possible. Einstein said we wouldn't be able to observe this, and since we've observed it we've have disproven that claim. Not knocking on Einstein; obviously he had no basis for theorizing the sort of observational capabilities we have now -- and even then he threw in a weasel word, "unlikely", to qualify it.

      The apparent angular displacement due to such micro lensing turned out to be so small, he said, "such a small displacement is unlikely to be observed". He is right, even after this observation, no terrestrial telescope can hope to observe this.

      Well, he would be right if he'd said it can't be observed from a terrestrial telescope, but made no such restriction. I would also not be so ready to claim that

      • In his time, there were no orbital telescopes or non terrestrial telescopes. So for all the types of telescopes that he knew his assertion stands.

        It is interesting you bring up adaptive optics and image post processing. How would I know the observed displacements are real observation, not some software glitch in adaptive optics or post processing?

        400 years ago when Galileo was using astronomical telescopes (sorry I misused the term terrestrial telescope. Astronomical telescopes use two lenses or one lens

        • It is interesting you bring up adaptive optics and image post processing. How would I know the observed displacements are real observation, not some software glitch in adaptive optics or post processing?

          The same way you know the image from the Hubble is accurate, after the processing applied to its imagery. Calibration and great care.

    • Proofs are possible only in mathematics.

      And puddings!
    • proofs are possible in liquor, the highest in the hard stuff. My one counter-example destroys your assertion.

  • First, as many previous commenters pointed out, you can't prove something to someone who's dead. Also, this has been proved 100 years ago (by Einstein himself, of all people). That being said, I bothered to read TFA and the article from Science and, as you can imagine, it says nothing of the sort. Rather:

    Here lies the importance of Sahu et al.’s project. Their astrometric lensing mea surements show convincingly that Stein 2051 B is not an exotic “iron core” white dwarf but a rather typical one, with a carbon-oxygen core and a normal mass and radius, thus resolving the long-standing debate over its nature.

    (sic) So, they didn't prove that gravitational lensing exists (duh), but rather it was used to explain some weird anomaly. Cool, but definitely not as headline grabby as "Scientists Prove Einstein Wrong".

  • Take that, Einstein, you bastard! Finally, you get what you deserve!

  • They are trying to tell us that Einstein is actually still alive!
  • I am interested on einstein as clickbait

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