Distorting the lens

Feb 09, 2012
An optical image of the effects of a gravitational lens: the distorted view of a distant galaxy as seen after its light passes through a closer galaxy whose gravity twists the image into a ring. Credit: ESA/NASA and Hubble

(PhysOrg.com) -- One of the most bizarre predictions of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity is the existence of back holes, objects that are so dense that not even light can escape from their gravitational grasp. A related prediction of General Relativity is that the path light travels can be bent by the presence of mass, so that matter can sometimes act like a lens - a so called "gravitational lens" - and produce distortions in images of background objects seen behind it. During the now famous total eclipse of 29 May 1919, scientists confirmed these basic predictions of Einstein's theory by observing starlight bent by the gravity of the Sun.

Astronomers since then have seen many cosmological examples of gravitational lensing, as light from a distant galaxy is magnified and distorted as it passes through a closer galaxy (or a cluster) en route to Earth. CfA astronomers Avi Loeb and Rosanne Di Stefano, with three colleagues, have now calculated the effect when the gravitation lens (the galaxy) also contains a supermassive black hole. Since most if not all galaxies host supermassive black holes, the added complexity of the image could be common.

The scientists conclude that a central supermassive black hole can indeed distort the image of a more by introducing new knots in the image. These new features are usually very faint, however, and will probably be undetectable with current instruments. However, the team notes that new facilities, especially at , should be able to detect them, and when interpreting the distorted shape of a gravitationally imaged galaxy, the implications of a central needs to be be taken into account.

Explore further: Fermi finds a 'transformer' pulsar

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A serendipitous gravitational lens

Nov 21, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The path traveled by a light beam will bend in the presence of matter. This remarkable prediction, reached by Einstein in his theory of general relativity, was confirmed by observations of ...

Hubble zooms in on a magnified galaxy

Feb 02, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Thanks to the presence of a natural "zoom lens" in space, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope got a uniquely close-up look at the brightest "magnified" galaxy yet discovered.

Lensed galaxies

Nov 12, 2010

In 1915, Einstein amazed the world by predicting that the path of light could be bent by mass. As a consequence, light from a distant galaxy passing by an intervening galaxy en route to earth will be distorted. ...

Measuring galaxy black hole masses

May 27, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Black holes, one of the most amazing and bizarre predictions of Einstein's theory of gravity, are irresistible sinks for matter and energy. They are so dense that not even light can escape ...

Image: A supermassive black hole

Jan 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a single exposure, astronomers were able to confirm the existence of a supermassive black hole in the center of galaxy M84.

Cosmic magnifying lenses distort view of distant galaxies

Jan 12, 2011

Looking deep into space, and literally peering back in time, is like experiencing the universe in a house of mirrors where everything is distorted through a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Gravitational ...

Recommended for you

Fermi finds a 'transformer' pulsar

15 hours ago

(Phys.org) —In late June 2013, an exceptional binary containing a rapidly spinning neutron star underwent a dramatic change in behavior never before observed. The pulsar's radio beacon vanished, while at ...

Transiting exoplanet with longest known year

Jul 21, 2014

Astronomers have discovered a transiting exoplanet with the longest known year. Kepler-421b circles its star once every 704 days. In comparison, Mars orbits our Sun once every 780 days. Most of the 1,800-plus ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

baudrunner
5 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2012
You can reproduce the effect by sticking a small ball of chewing gum in the bottom of an empty wine glass, then looking through the stem from underneath the pedestal of the glass.
HannesAlfven
1.7 / 5 (6) Feb 09, 2012
Re: "The scientists conclude that a central supermassive black hole can indeed distort the image of a more distant galaxy by introducing new knots in the image. These new features are usually very faint, however, and will probably be undetectable with current instruments. However, the team notes that new facilities, especially at radio wavelengths, should be able to detect them, and when interpreting the distorted shape of a gravitationally imaged galaxy, the implications of a central supermassive black hole needs to be be taken into account."

This is diabolically clever! Are we seeing a researcher priming his audience for an inference which would otherwise validate an electrical plasma cosmology? After all, radio-observed knots occur in electrical plasmas when the current density reaches a threshold value. In that competing view -- the Electric Universe -- the lensing is not happening, and these filaments are instead Birkeland Currents.

I smell a rat!
baudrunner
5 / 5 (1) Feb 10, 2012
The researchers aren't studying plasma physics and the images resulting from gravitational lensing are not electricity but luminescence. The point of the article is that scientists are close to reconstructing a view of galaxies we know to exist because of the intervening masses in our line of sight providing a magnified albeit distorted view of them through gravitational lensing. What is important is that we would not otherwise have an image of that galaxy, so in effect, those images are a peek into a past we might otherwise never see.
HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (2) Feb 15, 2012
Re: "The researchers aren't studying plasma physics and the images resulting from gravitational lensing are not electricity but luminescence."

You might want to check your astrophysical textbook. 99% of what we see with our telescopes is matter in the plasma state. There is no controversy in this. The controversy occurs with regards to the models for the plasmas: Astrophysicists are modeling the cosmic plasmas as though they are fluid- or gas-like, deprived of their electromagnetism. This is completely contrary to the behavior we observe in the laboratory -- which is electrical. Do you really believe that cosmic plasmas are different from laboratory plasmas?
HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (2) Feb 15, 2012
"Today it is recognized that 99.999% of all observable matter in the universe is in the plasma state..."[4]

"It is estimated that as much as 99.9% of the universe is comprised of plasma."[5]

"..the plasma state is the most abundant state of matter. It is thought that more than 99.9% of matter in the universe is in plasma"[6]

"plasmas are abundant in the universe. More than 99% of all known matter is in the plasma state"[7]

"It is an interesting fact that most of the material in the visible universe, as much as 99% according to some estimates, is in the plasma state"[8]

"Probably more than 99 percent of visible matter in the universe exist in the plasma state."[9]

"The plasma environment Plasmas, often called the fourth state of matter, are the most common form of matter in the universe. More than 99% of all matter"[10]

(See http://www.plasma...5_plasma for references)

That's not even all of them listed there ...