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Astronomers Discover Unique Triple Star System --A Clue to the True Nature of Gravity?

 

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An international team of astronomers using the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope have discovered a unique stellar system consisting of two white dwarf stars and a superdense pulsar that may provide a key clue for resolving one of the principal outstanding problems of fundamental physics – the true nature of gravity.

Pulsars are neutron stars that emit lighthouse-like beams of radio waves that rapidly sweep through space as the object spins on its axis. The pulsar Boyles discovered lies approximately 4200 light-years from Earth, and spins at nearly 366 times per second. Such rapidly-spinning pulsars are called millisecond pulsars, and can be used by astronomers as precision tools for studying a variety of phenomena, including searches for the elusive gravity waves.

Subsequent observations showed that the pulsar is in a close orbit with a white dwarf star, and that pair is in orbit with another, more-distant white dwarf.

“Following the discovery observation, we routinely carry out follow-up measurements of the pulsar to characterize its properties,” said former WVU graduate student Jason Boyles, now a faculty member at Western Kentucky University, who originally uncovered the pulsar in 2012 as part of a large-scale search for pulsars with the GBT. “In this case, our measurements of the spin frequency revealed a complex orbit that could only be explained by invoking the presence of two orbiting white dwarf stars.”

“This triple system gives us a natural cosmic laboratory far better than anything found before for learning exactly how such three-body systems work and potentially for detecting problems with General Relativity that physicists expect to see under extreme conditions,” Lorimer said.

The scientists began an intensive observational program using the GBT, the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, and the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope in the Netherlands. They also studied the system using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the GALEX satellite, the WIYN telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

“The gravitational perturbations imposed on each member of this system by the others are incredibly pure and strong,” McLaughlin said. “The millisecond pulsar serves as an extremely powerful tool for measuring those perturbations incredibly well.”

The research on this system used techniques dating back to those used by Issac Newton to study the Earth-Moon-Sun system, combined with the “new” gravity of Albert Einstein, which was required to make the precise measurements. The system gives the scientists the best opportunity yet to discover a violation of a concept called the Equivalence Principle.

This principle states that the effect of gravity on a body does not depend on the nature or internal structure of that body.

“While Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity has so far been confirmed by every experiment, it is not compatible with quantum theory. Because of that, physicists expect that it will break down under extreme conditions,” Ransom said. “This triple system of compact stars gives us a great opportunity to look for a violation of a specific form of the equivalence principle called the Strong Equivalence Principle.”

Under the strong equivalence principle, the gravitational effect of the outer white dwarf would be identical for both the inner white dwarf and the neutron star. If the strong equivalence principle is invalid under the conditions in this system, the outer star’s gravitational effect on the inner white dwarf and the neutron star would be slightly different and the high-precision pulsar timing observations could easily show that.

“By doing very high-precision timing of the pulses coming from the pulsar, we can test for such a deviation from the strong equivalence principle at a sensitivity several orders of magnitude greater than ever before available,” Stairs said. “Finding a deviation from the Strong Equivalence Principle could help point us in the right direction toward a new, revised theory of gravity.”

The Daily Galaxy via http://wvutoday.wvu.edu

Image credit: Carnegie Institute/UCSC

Comments

Quote: "Pulsars are neutron stars that emit lighthouse-like beams of radio waves that rapidly sweep through space as the object spins on its axis. The pulsar Boyles discovered lies approximately 4200 light-years from Earth, and spins at nearly 366 times per second. Such rapidly-spinning pulsars are called millisecond pulsars, and can be used by astronomers as precision tools for studying a variety of phenomena, including searches for the elusive gravity waves".

AD: Honestly! A celestial body spinning 366 times pr. second?

Quote: "The research on this system used techniques dating back to those used by Issac Newton to study the Earth-Moon-Sun system, combined with the “new” gravity of Albert Einstein, which was required to make the precise measurements. The system gives the scientists the best opportunity yet to discover a violation of a concept called the Equivalence Principle".

AD: Both the Newtonian and Einsteinian ideas of "gravity" fail to include the 3 electromagnetic fundamental forces which so obviously are at play here, as described below:

Quote from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millisecond_pulsar

"Millisecond pulsars have been detected in the radio, X-ray, and gamma ray portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The origin of millisecond pulsars is still unknown. The leading theory is that they begin life as longer period pulsars but are spun up or "recycled" through accretion. For this reason, millisecond pulsars are sometimes called recycled pulsars.

"However, there has been recent evidence that the standard evolutionary model fails to explain the evolution of all millisecond pulsars, especially young millisecond pulsars with relatively high magnetic fields, e.g. PSR B1937+21. Kızıltan & Thorsett showed that different millisecond pulsars must form by at least two distinct processes. But the nature of the other process remains a mystery".

AD: Clearly, the electromagnetic force, and NOT "gravity" is the prime player in this matter.

According to this article: "'While Einstein's Theory of General Relativity has so far been confirmed by every experiment, it is not compatible with quantum theory. Because of that, physicists expect that it will break down under extreme conditions', Ransom said." But how can a theory based on non-Euclidean geometry have been confirmed if non-Euclidean geometry with coordinates is self-contradicting? See the Facebook Note, the Rule of Threes (https://www.facebook.com/notes/reid-barnes/the-rule-of-threes/646220272097217).

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