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Are Images of Space Distorted by Gravity?

  1. Mar 16, 2006 #1
    I've seen images of space many times in the media. Do the images that we see acurately depict the universe? Or are the images so distorted by gravity that the true structure of the universe and various objects in it are not readily revealed?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 16, 2006 #2
    Not attractive gravity, but I'm quite sure that repulsive gravity distorts our vision - alot - more than than most people want it too. If Io, Europa, and Pioneer give us any clue, it proves that we know little to nothing about the our own solar system, much less the optical properties outside it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2006
  4. Mar 16, 2006 #3

    SpaceTiger

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    Gravity does bend the path of light, but it's usually not noticable in the pictures you see in the media. There are some exceptions, however. Here is one image in which a galaxy cluster's gravity is bending the light of the objects behind it:

    http://www.aip.org/history/einstein/images/lens2.jpg

    Fortunately, there are several ways to tell when an image is being significantly altered by gravitational lensing (e.g. magnification, distortion), so it's not usually a problem.
     
  5. Mar 21, 2006 #4
    I was thinking along the lines of a super nova. There you would have a rather large object, and likely a very irregular gravitational field as well.
     
  6. Mar 21, 2006 #5

    SpaceTiger

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    At the time of the exposion, supernovae appear to us as point sources (that is, we can't resolve their extent), so there's nothing really to distort. Eventually, the remnants of the supernova expand to a size where we can resolve it, but at this point the gravitational fields are far too weak to produce any distortion of the image.
     
  7. Mar 22, 2006 #6

    Chronos

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    Gravitational redshift is a minor player, even in the case of matter falling into a black hole. The major fireworks occur before gravitational redshift asserts any noticeable effects. Only at short wavelengths would the effect be noticeable - and difficult to observe [weak signal]. The net effect would smear emission lines - as observed in quasar spectral lines.
     
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