Einstein's Gravitational Warp

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© NASA/STScI.

In Einstein's theory of general relativity, massive bodies warp the fabric of space around them. This affects the path light takes as it travels through space. Light travels along the shortest path from one point to another. In flat space, far from massive objects, light travels in straight lines. In the vicinity of very massive objects, however, light follows a curved path. Just as an airplane traveling from San Francisco to Tokyo follows a path that looks longer on a flat map but is actually shorter on the curved globe, the shortest path for light to take past a massive object is curved. Observations of light deflected from a straight path near the limb of the sun provided early evidence that general relativity accurately describes the physical world. (Unit: 11)