Research NewsAstrophysics

X-rays Hint at Space Pirouette

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Science  07 Nov 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5340, pp. 1012-1013
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5340.1012b

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According to Einstein's theory of relativity, spin is measured against an abstract "frame of reference" determined by the average positions of all the stars in the universe. But relativity predicts that very dense, massive objects can "drag" reference frames right along with them. At a meeting of the American Astronomical Society's High Energy Astrophysics Division, two teams announced measurements that may back up that claim; they found that tiny wobbles in the x-rays from matter being sucked into stellar cinders called neutron stars, and perhaps into even denser black holes, appear to be signs of "frame dragging."