THE BIG IDEA: Gravitational Lens Creates Einstein Ring

einstein1.jpgI love astronomy. It seems like we are always learning something new the more we look up and out. So let’s talk about the Einstein Ring.

Well, okay, we’re going to talk about the Einstein Ring in a minute. First, we got to know a little bit about Albert Einstein and why he’s got a ring named after him.

Albert Einstein is best known for his general theory of relativity, but he has a number of accomplishments to his credit beyond that. He found out that mass bends light, so if light approaches the sun it’s going to bend just a fraction towards it on account of its massive size and gravity. That really shouldn’t be a surprise as a black hole, which starts as a star of some kind, is so powerful, so dense, that light not only bends around it, it can’t escape its gravitational pull.

Now when you are working in astronomy, gravity is one of your best friends. Take a very dense object between you and something you want to see a long distance away, and that bending of light creates a gravitational lens, one of Einstein’s other theories. This is one way astronomers discover new heavy-gravity objects in space.

So there is a galaxy—SDP.81—which is 12 billion light years away. This galaxy was formed before our own solar system and normally something that distant would be so faint that we couldn’t see it. The funny thing about the universe is that in its infinite chaos, we are sometimes gifted with blind luck. SDP.81, it turns out, is exactly lined up with another galaxy only a mere 4 billion light years away from us, and serves as the perfect gravitational lens or the Einstein Ring. All that mass, energy, and circumstances in these galaxies lining up, and the end result looks like a donut.

SDP81.jpg

A galactical donut. 12 billion light years away.  

 


 

shurtz.jpgA research physicist who has become an entrepreneur and educational leader, and an expert on competency-based education, critical thinking in the classroom, curriculum development, and education management, Dr. Richard Shurtz is the president and chief executive officer of Stratford University. He has published over 30 technical publications, holds 15 patents, and is host of the weekly radio show, Tech Talk. A noted expert on competency-based education, Dr. Shurtz has conducted numerous workshops and seminars for educators in Jamaica, Egypt, India, and China, and has established academic partnerships in China, India, Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, Malaysia, and Canada.


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