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Q&A: General Astronomy and Space Science

Q:
I have been thinking about the nature of spatial distortion due to matter. If space is distorted are there any other noticeable effects apart from a gravitational field? If we were to "distort" space, is the observable distance through that space just as "long" to an object passing through it and would take the same amount of energy to accelerate it regardless of the distortion? Are there any web links you know of on this subject? Thanks.

A:
Gravitational Lens - HST
According to Einstein's theory of General Relativity, the distortion of space due to matter is the same as the gravitational field. The gravitational field affects the motion of all particles moving through it, including photons, or light, so it does take longer for a particle to move through a distorted region of space, and its path will be altered by the distortion. This is the basis for the gravitational lenses that astronomers have discovered in recent years. Light rays traveling from a distant galaxy may pass through a foreground galaxy cluster and be bent by differing amounts depending on the distortion of space produced by the cluster. As a result, the images of the galaxies will be distorted into arcs or in some cases, split into more than one image. A web site on this subject that is worth investigating is http://archive.ncsa.uiuc.edu/Cyberia/NumRel/NumRelHome.html

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