New Theory of Gravity Emerges

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova

If a study carried out by researchers at the University of St. Andrews holds true then we may need to consider rewriting Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity. The remarkable discovery made by the team saw them locating a gigantic ring of galaxies that were traveling away from us at a rate much faster than they originally thought.

Co-author and Reader in the School of Physics and Astronomy, Dr. Hongsheng Zhao, said, “If Einstein’s Gravity were correct, our Galaxy would never come close enough to Andromeda to scatter anything that fast.” While the leader of the study, Ph.D. student, Indranil Banik, advised, “The ring-like distribution is very peculiar.  These small galaxies are like a string of raindrops flung out from a spinning umbrella.  I found there is barely a 1 in 640 chance for randomly distributed galaxies to line up in an observed way.  I traced their origin to a dynamical event when the Universe was only half its present age.”

This shake up in the sky was almost certainly caused by a near-miss of the Andromeda galaxy and our very own Milky Way. Having always orbited one another, this shakes up would have sent dwarf galaxies flying into their paths and maybe explains why speeding dwarfs are in a plane that also contains both the Milky Way and Andromeda.  Banik also explained, “In Einstein’s gravity paradigm, a hypothetical dark matter is always invoked.  Such a high speed requires 60 times the mass we see in the stars of the Milky Way and Andromeda.  However, the friction between their huge halos of dark matter would result in them merging rather than flying 2.5 million light years apart, as they must have done.”

Moving forward, Dr. Zhao is looking to follow up his work with simulations of the origin of the ring and our neighboring galaxies and is in the process of applying for a UK Science and Technology Facilities Council grant to enable him to do so.

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