A rare ‘gravitational lensing event’ is predicted to occur in 2028. Alpha Centauri A and B will line up with a red giant star.
This will create a circle of light which could be used to determine the presence, and the masses, of nearby planets.
The prediction is based on the trajectories of Alpha Centauri A and B – a fast-moving pair of stars in the closest solar system to our own.
Using both new and archive data, researchers have predicted the stars’ movements over the next 34 years.
In 2028, a gravitational lensing event is predicted to occur, in which light from a distant object is bent around a nearer star by its gravitational field – providing the opportunity to look for planets in our nearby solar system.
This phenomenon was predicted by Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity in 1916.
If the two objects are very closely aligned, eagle-eyed astronomers may catch a glimpse of an ‘Einstein ring’ – a circle of light that curves around on all sides of the closer object.
In this case, Alpha Centauri A is predicted to move in front of a red giant star, called S5.
In a statement on its website, the European Southern Observatory, said: ‘In May 2028, there is a strong chance that the light from S5 will create an Einstein ring around Alpha Centauri A, observable with ESO’s telescopes. http://www.eso.org/public/images/ann16075a/
Clips, images credit: NASA, ESA/HUBBLE and
P. Kervella et al. (CNRS / U. de Chile / Observatoire de Paris / LESIA)/ESO
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