Theory of Relativity demonstrated in unusual binary star system

Apr 25, 2013
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Theory of Relativity demonstrated in unusual binary star system

About 7,000 light years away from us sit two recently-discovered stellar bodies, one being a white dwarf star and the other being a rotating neutron star said to be double our Sun's mass. These two stars are unusual because they orbit each other, passing by every 2.5 hours. Such a pairing provides a rare way to test gravity theories, of which Einstein's General Theory of Relativity trumps them all.

Upon its discovery, the system was observed through multiple telescopes, including ones located in Chile, the Canary Islands, Germany, Puerto Rico, and the United States. Dubbed PSR J0348+0432, the stars are newsworthy and provide an excellent point for theory testing for several reasons, such as how close the white dwarf is to the larger star and the neutron star’s mass. According to Phys.org, the system is unprecedented.

Thus far, all the observations made of this unique stellar system substantiate Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, something researchers believed might not be the case, thinking that the particular conditions of these two stars would result in off-kilter orbital decay rates, with other theories proving more accurate. To their surprise, this wasn't the case.

Because General Relativity is holding true, the researchers may be able to detect the gravitational waves from the stellar bodies, something only possible using advanced equipment in conjunction with understanding the waves’ characteristics. About detecting the waves, McGill University’s Ryan Lynch, who is one of the researchers, said, “Our results indicate that the filtering techniques planned for these advanced instruments remain valid.”

[via Phys.org]


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