Massive stars are able to manipulate the light we see from other stars. Image Credit: Casey Reed / NASA
Astronomers have observed a distant white dwarf star shifting the position of another star in the sky.
The discovery is particularly important because, in addition to being a world-first, it is also a phenomenon that Albert Einstein himself did not think would ever be possible to observe.
It works because particularly massive objects can warp the space around them which in turn acts like a magnifying glass, altering the path that light travels through the cosmos.
Fortunately though, despite Einstein's skepticism, telescopes have now come so far that it has actually become possible to observe this phenomenon directly.
The feat was achieved using the Hubble Space Telescope to observe a white dwarf star passing close enough to another background star that it seemed to move in a small loop in the sky.
"It looks like the white dwarf pushed it out of the way," said astronomer Terry Oswalt. "That's not what happened, of course. It just looks like that."
Astronomers are now hoping to spot many more such instances of this particular effect.
"This opens up a new field," said Kailash Sahu of the Space Telescope Science Institute.
"Nobody had tried this before, so it's a new technique. And it gives us a very unique and direct metric for measuring the mass of a star."
Source: The Verge | Comments (5)