Hubble sees light bending around nearby star

Jun 8, 2017

By Alexandra Witze

The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted light bending because of the gravity of a nearby white dwarf star — the first time astronomers have seen this type of distortion around a star other than the Sun. The finding once again confirms Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

A team led by Kailash Sahu, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, watched the position of a distant star jiggle slightly, as its light bent around a white dwarf in the line of sight of observers on Earth. The amount of distortion allowed the researchers to directly calculate the white dwarf’s mass — 67% that of the Sun.

“It’s a very difficult observation with a really nice result,” says Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay, an astrophysicist at the University of Warwick in Coventry, UK, who was not involved in the discovery. The findings were published in Science1 and presented at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas, on 7 June.

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