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Theory of Relativity Confirmed on Cosmic Scales

Cosmic-scale test for general relativity

Testing general relativity on the large scales of the Universe remains a fundamental challenge to modern cosmology. The theoretical framework of cosmology is defined by gravity, for which general relativity is the current model. Wojtak et al. now show that a classical test of general relativity — the gravitational redshift experienced by photons propagating outwards from a gravitational potential well — provides a direct means of testing gravity on scales of several megaparsecs, independent of cosmology. Their observations of the gravitational redshift of light coming from galaxies in clusters at the 99% confidence level agree with the predictions of general relativity, and are inconsistent with alternative models designed to avoid the presence of dark matter.

Albert Einstein may have been taking a metaphorical beating earlier this week with the possibility of faster-than-light neutrinos potentially wreaking havoc with the Special Theory of Relativity. But Relativity is more than just the idea that nothing with mass or information can travel faster than the speed of light. The General Theory of Relativity, which describes the workings of gravitation in the Universe, has just been verified on a grand scale.

Researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute have just conducted an experiment to test Einstein’s theories on a grand scale – in galactic clusters. Galactic clusters are groups of thousands of galaxies, which are held together by their own gravity. According to predictions found in the General Theory of Relativity, the gravity from the galactic clusters should bend the light, causing a gravitational redshift – a change in the wavelength of the light. The researchers findings have been published in Nature, and the article can be found here.

In order to determine whether the gravity from galactic clusters was causing such a redshift in line with Einstein’s predictions, the researchers analyzed the light coming from...

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