Einstein's theory of relativity was also proven in a distant galaxy

Using data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the very large ESO telescope (the Southern European Observatory in Chile), the researchers show that the gravitational force in this galaxy behaves as Einstein's general theory of relativity predicted, confirming the validity of the theory at galactic scales.

In 1915 Albert Einstein proposed General Relativity (GR) to explain how gravity works. Since then, the theory has undergone a series of high-precision tests within the solar system, but so far no accurate measurements of its behavior have been made at large astronomical scales.

Since 1929 it is known that the universe is expanding, but in 1998 two groups of astronomers have shown that the universe is expanding at an ever increasing rate. This surprising discovery - which won the Nobel Prize in 2011 - can not be explained unless the universe consists mainly of an exotic component called dark energy. However, this interpretation is based on the fact that general relativity is correct on a cosmological scale, so testing long-term gravity properties is important to validate our cosmological model.

A team of astronomers, led by Dr. Thomas Colette of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravity at the University of Portsmouth, used a nearby galaxy as a gravitational lens to perform a precise test of gravity on galaxies at the edge of the universe.

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Dr. Colette said: "General relativity predicts that massive objects distort space-time, that is, when light passes by another galaxy, the path of light is shifted. If two galaxies are aligned along our line of vision, this can cause a phenomenon called a strong gravitational front, in which we see multiple images of the background galaxy. If we know the mass of the next galaxy, the amount of separation between the multiple images tells us if general relativity is a theory Correct gravity of the galactic scales. "

Several hundred strong gravity lenses are known, but most are too far away to accurately measure their mass, so they can not be used to accurately test GR. However, the galaxy ESO325-G004 is among the closest gravity lenses - 500 million light-years from Earth.

Dr. Colette continues: "We used data from the very large telescope in Chile to measure the speed of star movement in E325. This allows us to deduce how much mass must be in the E325 to hold these stars in orbit. The calculation of the structure of the far-flung galaxy was increased and distorted, close to the forecast of general relativity, by 9%. It may sound a lot but it's the most accurate external experiment of general relativity to date, from just one galaxy. "

"The universe is an amazing place that provides lenses that we can use as our laboratories," adds team member Professor Bob Nicole, director of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravity at the University of Portsmouth. "It is very exciting to use the best telescopes in the world to challenge Einstein, only to find out how his prediction stands the test."

The study was published in the journal Science.

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