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Thursday, January 10, 2008

That Einstein Guy Might Be Onto Something

posted by on January 10 at 17:34 PM


At the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas, Treu unveiled the first-ever image of a double Einstein ring. It shows an obscure galaxy in Leo, designated SDSS J0946+1006 for its coordinates in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, encircled by two concentric glowing rings. These aren’t part of J0946 itself, but are the strongly distorted images of more distant galaxies strung out behind it like beads on a string.

This is a spectacular example of a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. It’s caused by the distortion of space-time by massive objects. While formulating his general theory of relativity, Albert Einstein realized that because of this warping, light won’t always travel across the universe in straight lines. For example, if one galaxy lies almost directly behind another as seen from Earth, light from the more distant one will bend around the foreground galaxy and form multiple images or, in the case of near-perfect alignment, an Einstein ring.

In other news, refurbishing the Hubble telescope is worth the cost.

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Gravitational lenses have been found in many, many instances in the last ten or twenty years, at least. That's nothing new.

But that pic is a nice ring!

Posted by Sachi Wilson | January 10, 2008 6:06 PM


Posted by kid icarus | January 10, 2008 6:07 PM

This is cool.

Let's hope the James Webb Telescope stays on track and flies without a hitch. We won't have a shuttle replacement for quite some time to do a repair mission (hell we might not even have the James Webb Telescope) if Obama is elected.

Posted by notonthehill | January 10, 2008 6:18 PM

Thanks for that info on Obama. I didn't know he was anti-space program. I guess it figures, though. He probably thinks the money would be better spent on junkies and welfare mothers.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | January 10, 2008 6:45 PM

I like Obama. I also like NASA. I think eight years of Obama would be a good thing. NASA will still be there, and the further we go, the more important NASA will seem. Obama is smart enough to see value in things. NASA may or may not be valuable in the next eight years. Obama definitely will. I'll take the trade off for now.

Posted by flash gordon | January 11, 2008 12:42 AM

Has anything Einstein ever came up with been disproven? Seriously does anyone know?

That dude rocked.

Posted by Toby | January 11, 2008 7:22 AM

Einstein's ideas about quantum mechanics--how atoms are held together--were pretty wrong.

In fact, one of his more famous quotes ("God doesn't play dice with the Universe") was from a scientific argument he ultimately lost.

But yeah, the dude rocked.

Posted by Jonathan Golob | January 11, 2008 8:03 AM

Psh. Albert Einstein was an idiot.

Posted by Mr. Poe | January 11, 2008 8:15 AM

The galaxy and the spinning dancer: P-I online has an image of galaxy NGC 4622, which appears to be spinning the wrong way".

As with the mindfucking image of the twirling girl, you can tell which direction -- clockwise or counterclockwise -- is real IF you can determine which spiral foot is the front foot.

Unlike the case of the perky dancer, science may be able to tell hos this one is leaning.

Unfortunately, not even the Hubble is powerful enough to detect the galaxy's nipples (if any).

Posted by RonK, Seattle | January 11, 2008 8:57 AM

Or maybe God put that ring there to test our faith.

Posted by Mike | January 11, 2008 10:17 AM

@10: Probably! I mean, the Bible says nothing of gravitational lenses, so how can they exist?

Posted by Orv | January 11, 2008 10:46 AM

Einstein was an advocate for the steady state universe, which contradicted his equations for general relativity. In order to make the equations work, he hypotheised the cosmological constant, which he later aknowledged to be in error.

Posted by crazycatguy | January 11, 2008 10:48 AM

Yes, this is a pretty spectacular example of gravitational lensing, but the phenomenon has been observed for nearly a century, starting with Eddington's observational confirmation of Einstein's postulation in 1919.

Posted by COMTE | January 11, 2008 12:29 PM

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