Scientists have observed for the first time a star’s light being warped by a supermassive black hole — and they say it backs up Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity while rebuking Newton’s ideas about gravity.
“In sport, you would say it was 1-0 for Einstein,” Frank Eisenhauer of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics told the BBC.
Using giant telescopes, researchers from the institute watched a fast-moving star known as S2 passing through the gravitational field of Sagittarius A*, the massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way that’s around 26,000 light-years from Earth.
They saw that the hole distorted the star’s light waves in a way that’s in line with Einstein’s theory — which says the fabric of the universe is not just space, but the more complex space-time — but not the simpler Newtonian theory of gravity, according to Space.com.
The result was reported Thursday in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Einstein’s theory still doesn’t explain everything about the universe, which is why scientists keep testing it, but they acknowledge he’s won this round.
“I, just like every physicist in the world, would have loved to finally see a crack in Einstein’s relativity,” said Ohio State University astrophysicist Paul Sutter, who was part of the research team.