Supermassive Black Hole: Testing Einstein

It’s pretty widely agreed that Albert Einstein was a fairly smart man, he even came up with a theory regarding the relationship between time, energy, and mass that still remains stubbornly impossible to disprove. Relativity, maybe you’ve heard of it? Anyway, the most recent supporting evidence comes in the form of a nearby supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy, and more specifically the way light bends as it is affected by the approximately 4 million solar masses worth of gravity inside.

The test was conducted over a period of 16 years using the Very Large Telescope, not just any big telescope, this one is actually named “the Very Large Telescope”, “VTL” for short in Chile’s Atacama desert. During the test a large star, known as S2 was observed orbiting and passing near the black hole known as Sagittarius A* (pronounced A-star) or Sag A*. The observers compared the light reaching Earth from S2 as it approached, was near, and was going away from Sag a* and noticed the effects of the black holes extreme gravitational pull on it. They noted that the lights wavelength extends, becoming longer and more reddish in visible color. This is caused by the light traveling away from the black hole losing some energy, but not slowing down, so it’s wavelength shifts subtly toward the red part of the spectrum in what is known as “gravitational redshifting” something never before demonstrated with a black hole.

You can count on the scientific community trying again and again until the day someone manages to break the perfection of the theory of general relativity. But until that happens, it’s another case of Einstein is still right, so far.

Bradley Pierce

This geek is the co-creator of and producer for ZFO Entertainment, a writer for ZFOnline, and also a filmmaker and was the original voice of Chip in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and actor from Jumanji, and The Borrowers.

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