The scientific phenomenon is not a new one: Einstein himself predicted that any spinning body drags the fabric of spacetime in his general theory of relativity, and coined the process “frame-dragging.” Scientists have even hypothesized the effect that the Earth has on the spacetime around it, estimating that the area around the globe rotates one degree every 100,000 years or so.
However, researchers were able to finally see the theory proven after scientists searched for an example with a greater gravitational pull, and found one in a white dwarf and neutron star pair.
White dwarfs are the dead remnants of a star and are hundreds of thousands of times more massive than Earth. Moreover, they spin quickly, completing one cycle every 60-120 seconds vs. every 24 hours.
That means that the frame-dragging caused by a white dwarf would be close to 100 million times more powerful than Earth’s.
A neutron star is also the remnant of a dead star, but even denser. It spins an incredible 150 times per minute, emitting a light beam that astronomers used to help calculate their predictions.
The specific pulsar — and white dwarf — targeted by astronomers was PSR J1141-6545, which includes a young pulsar about 1.27 times the mass of the sun, at an eye-watering 10,000 to 25,0000 light years away from Earth.
Scientists measured when the light flashes of the pulsars would arrive on Earth for a period of over 20 years, using the Parkes and UTMOST radio telescopes in Australia. Over the two decades, they noticed that there were slight changes in their calculations, meaning the object had “drifted” from its original location.
Since there were no other explanations for the movement, astronomers realized that the gravitational force of the pairing had caused the pulsar’s orbit to change its orientation over time by altering spacetime around it.
The new study “confirms a long-standing hypothesis of how this binary system came to be, something that was proposed over two decades ago,” said lead author Vivek Venkatraman Krishnan, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany (via Space).
Venkatraman Krishnan added that he hoped he could use the method to investigate double neutron star systems.
“The density of matter inside a neutron star far exceeds what can be achieved in a lab, so there is a wealth of new physics to be learnt by using this technique to double neutron-star systems,” he continued.
In other space news, scientists have discovered that the black hole in the center of our galaxy is creating a new type of star not seen before, as was previously reported by The Inquisitr.