In my previous blog post, Visual “Proof” of General Relativity, I discussed how gravitational lensing demonstrates the effects of Einstein’s theory of general relativity in a direct, visual manner. Images created by gravitational lenses show features that are not possible in Newton’s version of gravity.
Although seeing general relativity with your own eyes is kinda awesome, there’s one unsatisfying aspect: you only see the result, not the process. Since you don’t know exactly what those galaxies looked like before the gravitational lensing, it is hard to fully appreciate the magnitude of the distortions. We have no on/off switch for the mass of the galaxy cluster to be able to examine the un-lensed image and compare against the lensed one.
A simulation of gravitational lensing by a cluster of galaxies (click on image for larger version). The galaxies of cluster Abell 2744 (left) are inserted into the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (right) to produce the combined image with gravitational lensing (center).
But we can demonstrate the process of gravitational lensing through scientific visualization. The images above show a simulation of gravitational lensing by a galaxy cluster. On the left is an image of only the galaxies that belong to galaxy cluster ...