Space-time is swirling around a dead star, proving Einstein right again

Space-time is indeed churned by massive rotating bodies, as scientists had thought.

Charles Q. Choi |

Artist’s illustration of Lense-Thirring frame-dragging resulting from a rotating white dwarf in the PSR J1141-6545 binary star system.(Image: © Mark Myers, ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav))

The way the fabric of space and time swirls in a cosmic whirlpool around a dead star has confirmed yet another prediction from Einstein’s theory of general relativity, a new study finds.

That prediction is a phenomenon known as frame dragging, or the Lense-Thirring effect. It states that space-time will churn around a massive, rotating body. For example, imagine Earth were submerged in honey. As the planet rotated, the honey around it would swirl — and the same holds true with space-time.

Satellite experiments have detected frame dragging in the gravitational field of rotating Earth, but the effect is extraordinarily small and, therefore, has been challenging to measure. Objects with greater masses and more powerful gravitational fields, such as white dwarfs and neutron stars, offer better chances to see this phenomenon.

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