Astronomers are investigating a collection of cosmic mysteries which could shed light on the nature of gravity itself. The astrophysicists have discovered a new space system that has two white dwarf stars and an extremely dense pulsar, all three packed inside a space which is smaller than the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. The worldwide team, which includes famous astronomer Ingrid Stairs, reported their particular findings in the journal Nature.
The pulsar, which is approximately 4,150 light-years from Earth, is spinning around at nearly 365 times each second. It was discovered to be in extremely close orbit with a white dwarf and this pair was also in orbit with yet another white dwarf that was farther away.
This triple body system was the scientists’ top chance as of this time to discover any violation of the main concept in Albert Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. That is the strong equivalence principle that says the effect of gravity on a body does not rest on the nature or internal organization of that body.
By doing extremely high-accuracy timing of these pulses which are coming from the pulsar, the astronomers are able to test for deviations from the equivalence principle at a sensitivity that is at a magnitude much greater than was ever available before, stated Stairs, who works with physics and astronomy. Finding any sort of deviance from the strong equivalence principle would show a break in the General Relativity principle and would point scientists toward a new, revised idea of gravity.
This millisecond pulsar is the first discovered in this type of system, and it was immediately recognized that it provided astronomers a wonderful opportunity to be able to examine the nature and effects of gravity, stated Scott Ransom, who is an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. He was in charge of the study.
The system has also given scientists a natural cosmic test center which is much better than anything ever found before where they can learn how such three body systems work together and also can watch for problems with General Relativity that physicists imagine could happen under such punishing conditions.
When an enormous star bursts, as in the case of a supernova, then what remains collapses into a super dense neutron star and some of that mass will be changed into gravitational energy. That binding energy will end up holding the extremely dense star together. The strong equivalence principle states that the energy should still react gravitationally as if it were still mass. However, most alternatives to General Relativity state that it will not.
Going by the strong equivalence principle, the gravitational outcome of the outer white dwarf would be the same for the inner white dwarf and also the neutron star. If the strong equivalence principle proves to be unsound under these systems conditions, the outer star’s gravitational pull on the inner white dwarf and the neutron star would be somewhat different and the high-accuracy pulsar timing interpretations would easily show how things were not correct.
These have been some of the most accurate measurements made in astrophysics, stated Anne Archibald of the Netherlands Institute for Astronomy and also one of the main authors of this study, some of these measurements of the positions of the stars in the system are precise down to hundreds of meters. Archibald was the leader in the research study to use measurements to construct a computer model of the system, which is able to predict its motions.
By studying all of what they are, astronomers may be able to solve a collection of cosmic mysteries which could shed light on the nature of gravity itself.
By Kimberly Ruble