A recent peer-reviewed paper by physicist James Franson from the University of Maryland in the US has initiated a stir among physics community. Issued in the New Journal of Physics, the paper points to evidence proposing that the speed of light as defined by the theory of general relativity, is slower than originally thought. The theory of general relativity states, In a vacuum light travels at a constant speed of 299,792,458 meters per second. The speed of light, or you can say number of light years, is what we measure essentially everything in the cosmos by, so it’s essential we acquire it right. Franson’s paper is founded on measurements taken of the supernova SN 1987A, which shrunken and blasted in February 1987. Physicists observing the supernova collapse picked up on the occurrence of both photons and neutrinos in the detonation, as Bob Yirka reports, there was a problem.
|Supernova 1987A, observed in light of various wavelengths. Image Credit: ALMA/NASA|
Yirka describes why this is vital: “That should create a gravitational differential, [Franson] notes, between the pair of particles, which, he theorises, would have a tiny energy impact when they recombine - enough to cause a slight bit of a slowdown during travel. If such splitting and rejoining occurred many times with many photons on a journey of 168,000 light years, the distance between us and SN 1987A, it could easily add up to the 4.7 hour delay, [Franson] suggests.”
If Fransons’s theory is right, every distance measured by light years is incorrect, comprising how far away the Sun and distant galaxies are from the Earth. In certain circumstances, says Yirka, astrophysicist’s might have to start it all over from scratch.