Friday, May 24, 2024

Research supports alternative theory of gravity

(University of Bonn)  –  An international team of astrophysicists has made a puzzling discovery while analysing certain star clusters. The finding challenges Newton’s laws of gravity, the researchers write in their publication.

The observations are consistent with the predictions of an alternative theory of gravity. However, this is controversial among experts. The results have now been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

In their work, the researchers investigated open star clusters. These are formed when thousands of stars are born within a short time in a huge gas cloud. As they “ignite,” the galactic newcomers blow away the remnants of the gas cloud. In the process, the cluster expands considerably. This creates a loose formation of several dozen to several thousand stars. The weak gravitational forces acting between them hold the cluster together.

“In most cases, open star clusters survive only a few hundred million years before they dissolve,” says Prof. Dr. Pavel Kroupa of the Helmholtz Institute of Radiation and Nuclear Physics at the University of Bonn. In the process, they regularly lose stars, which accumulate in two so-called “tidal tails.” One of these tails is pulled behind the cluster as it travels through space. The other, in contrast, takes the lead like a spearhead.

“According to Newton’s laws of gravity, it’s a matter of chance in which of the tails a lost star ends up,” says Dr. Jan Pflamm-Altenburg, also of the Helmholtz Institute of Radiation and Nuclear Physics. “So both tails should contain about the same number of stars. However, in our work we were able to prove for the first time that this is not true. In the clusters we studied, the front tail always contains significantly more stars nearby to the cluster than the rear tail.”

Until now, it has been almost impossible to determine from among the millions of stars close to a cluster those that belong to its tails. “To do this, you have to look at the velocity, direction of motion, and age of each of these objects,” explains Dr. Tereza Jerabkova, co-author of the paper, who did her doctorate in Kroupa’s group and recently moved from the European Space Agency (ESA) to the European Southern Observatory in Garching. She developed a method that allowed her to accurately count the stars in the tails for the first time.

“So far, five open clusters have been investigated near us, including four by us,” she says. “When we analysed all the data, we encountered the contradiction with the current theory. The very precise survey data from ESA’s Gaia space mission were indispensable for this.”

The observational data, in contrast, fit much better with a theory that goes by the acronym MOND (Modified Newtonian Dynamics) among experts. “Put simply, according to MOND, stars can leave a cluster through two different doors,” Kroupa explains. “One leads to the rear tidal tail, the other to the front. However, the first is much narrower than the second – so it’s less likely that a star will leave the cluster through it. Newton’s theory of gravity, on the other hand, predicts that both doors should be the same width.”

The team calculated the stellar distribution expected according to MOND. “The results correspond surprisingly well with the observations,” highlights Dr. Ingo Thies, who played a key role in the corresponding simulations. “However, we had to resort to relatively simple computational methods to do this. We currently lack the mathematical tools for more detailed analyses of modified Newtonian dynamics.”

Nevertheless, the simulations coincided with the observations in another respect; they predicted how long open star clusters should typically survive. And this time span is significantly shorter than would be expected according to Newton’s laws. “This explains a mystery that has been known for a long time,” Kroupa points out. “Namely, star clusters in nearby galaxies seem to be disappearing faster than they should.”

The MOND theory is not undisputed among experts. Since Newton’s laws of gravity would not be valid under certain circumstances, but would have to be modified, this would have far-reaching consequences for other areas of physics as well. “Then again, it solves many of the problems that cosmology faces today,” explains Kroupa. The team is now exploring new mathematical methods for even more accurate simulations. They could then be used to find further evidence as to whether the MOND theory is correct or not.

 

https://phys.org/news/2022-10-astrophysicists-alternative-theory-gravity.html

BIG Media
BIG Media
Our focus is on facts, accurate data, and logical interpretation. Our only agenda is the truth.
spot_img

BIG Wrap

Putin’s military purge echoes Prigozhin’s call to act

(BBC News) When one top defence official is arrested in Russia, that is interesting.   When five senior defence figures are handcuffed in less than a...

‘Strong punishment’ – China initiates military drills around Taiwan

(Al Jazeera Media Network) China has started military drills surrounding the self-governing island of Taiwan, according to Chinese state media. The state-run Xinhua news agency...