Einstein’s Theory of Relativity Just Proven Right by Flashing Neutron Star

The study works on the old idea that light and heavy objects fall at the same rate.
Fabienne Lang
Illustration of the pulsar with its two white dwarfsMichael Kramer/MPlfR

Physicists have proven one of Einstein's core ideas regarding gravity: that objects, no matter how heavy or light they are, fall at the same rate. 

This isn't new work, as many other scientists have looked into the matter, what's new about the study this time is that it used a neutron star flashing across Space to reach its conclusion, and uses the most precision to date. 

Their findings were published in Astronomy & Astrophysics in April.


Neutron stars help sharpen general relativity

"Neutron stars and black holes are the objects that have the strongest known gravitational fields, so any test of gravity that involves these objects really test the heart of Einstein's gravity theory," Sharon Morinsk from the University of Alberta in Canada, who was not a part of the study, told Live Science.

Neutron stars are the collapsed core of dead stars. The researchers focused their work on a type of neutron star called a pulsar, which, when observed from Earth looks like it flashes as it spins. They spin in such a methodical way that you can actually keep time thanks to their spins. 

The particular pulsar used in the study, J0337+1715, is especially good to test Einstein's theory as it has very precise timekeeping and a unique relationship to its two white dwarf stars. Observing how the pulsar and its white dwarfs move around each other allowed the researchers to create a robust model of the neutron star's movement across Space, analyzing exactly how it interacted with the gravity fields of its neighbors. 

Most Popular

"So tests of Einstein's gravity using neutron stars really make me feel better about our assumption that Einstein's theory describes the gravity of a neutron star correctly!" Said Morinsk

Given most of Einstein's top insights about the universe revolve around the universality of free fall, this new study is a perfect way to strengthen the cornerstone of general relativity.