What Is Curved Space

Whereas Newton introduced the concept of gravitational force as a property of all matter possessing mass, Einstein proposed that matter does not merely attract matter, but that all matter warps the space around it. For Newton, the trajectory of an orbiting planet is curved because it is subject to the gravitational influence of, for example, the sun. For Einstein, the planet's trajectory is curved because space itself has been curved by the presence of the massive sun. This change represents a fundamental shift in the way we think about the universe. One major difference between Newton's and Einstein's theory of gravitation is that if mass distorts space, then massless photons of light (in addition to matter) should also feel the effect of gravity.

And like any good theory, Einstein's ideas explained questions that had gone unanswered, and made testable predictions. In particular, his theory explained some tiny peculiarities in the orbit of Mercury and successfully predicted that the sun's mass was enough to bend light rays passing very close to it.

In isolation, the mass of an ever-collapsing stellar core does not change. However, a black hole will draw in matter that wanders too near to the event horizon. With such accretion, the star's mass will increase—even as its collapse continues. This means that its Schwarzschild radius (and event horizon) will increase. The famous astrophysicist Steven Hawking has also proposed that black holes can actually evaporate when pairs of particles are created close to the event horizon.

Astronomer's Notebook

In isolation, the mass of an ever-collapsing stellar core does not change. However, a black hole will draw in matter that wanders too near to the event horizon. With such accretion, the star's mass will increase—even as its collapse continues. This means that its Schwarzschild radius (and event horizon) will increase. The famous astrophysicist Steven Hawking has also proposed that black holes can actually evaporate when pairs of particles are created close to the event horizon.

Telescopes Mastery

Telescopes Mastery

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