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A precise extragalactic test of General Relativity

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Science  22 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6395, pp. 1342-1346
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao2469

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Testing General Relativity on galaxy scales

Einstein's theory of gravity, General Relativity (GR), has been tested precisely within the Solar System. However, it has been difficult to test GR on the scale of an individual galaxy. Collett et al. exploited a nearby gravitational lens system, in which light from a distant galaxy (the source) is bent by a foreground galaxy (the lens). Mass distribution in the lens was compared with the curvature of space-time around the lens, independently determined from the distorted image of the source. The result supports GR and eliminates some alternative theories of gravity.

Science, this issue p. 1342

Abstract

Einstein’s theory of gravity, General Relativity, has been precisely tested on Solar System scales, but the long-range nature of gravity is still poorly constrained. The nearby strong gravitational lens ESO 325-G004 provides a laboratory to probe the weak-field regime of gravity and measure the spatial curvature generated per unit mass, γ. By reconstructing the observed light profile of the lensed arcs and the observed spatially resolved stellar kinematics with a single self-consistent model, we conclude that γ = 0.97 ± 0.09 at 68% confidence. Our result is consistent with the prediction of 1 from General Relativity and provides a strong extragalactic constraint on the weak-field metric of gravity.

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