Today’s Top Space Headline –“Wormholes in Spacetime May be Detected By Strange Shadows”


In a new analysis, published in the preprint journal arXiv on March 30, Rajibul Shaikh, a physicist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India, found that a certain type of rotating wormhole would cast a larger and more distorted shadow than the one cast by a black hole. As a wormhole spun faster, its shadow would appear a little smooshed, while a black hole's shadow would remain more disk-like.

"Through the observation of their shadows, it might be possible to distinguish between black holes and wormholes," said Shaikh.

Wormholes, or hypothetical tunnels through space-time that allow faster-than-light travel, writes Marcus Woo in today's Live Science, could potentially leave dark, telltale imprints in the sky that might be seen with telescopes, a new study suggests.

These slightly bent, oblong wormhole "shadows" could be distinguished from the more circular patches left by black holes and, if detected, could show that the cosmic shortcuts first proposed by Albert Einstein more than a century ago are, in fact, real, one researcher says.

Wormholes are cosmic shortcuts, tunnels burrowing through hyperspace. Hop in one end, and you could emerge on the other side of the universe — a convenient method of hyperfast travel that's become a trope of science fiction.

These sci-fi staples arise from the equations of Einstein's theory of general relativity. Like the space-time around black holes, wormholes are regions where the fabric of space-time is so warped, light no longer travels in a straight line. Photons — or light particles from nearby gas, dust or background stars — careen around the wormhole, generating a ring of light. But photons too close would fall through the wormhole and leave behind a dark, round void called a shadow.

Such a shadow would be similar to those cast by black holes — including the supermassive one at the center of the Milky Way galaxy — which astronomers are now trying to observe directly. Its shadow would appear tiny, so astronomers are linking radio dishes across the globe to form an Earth-sized telescope, called the Event Horizon Telescope. They're now analyzing the first batch of data, which they collected last year.

Researchers have calculated a rotating wormhole's shadow before, but they overlooked the effect of the wormhole's "throat," which connects its two ends, Shaikh said. Using the new analysis, astronomers could, in principle, identify a wormhole shadow when they see one. And if they do, it would not only be evidence of something out of science fiction but also indirect evidence for some kind of exotic matter or a modified theory of gravity, he said.

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