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Gravity Probe B

Testing Einstein's Universe

Special & General Relativity Questions and Answers

What is a space anomaly?

This is a stock item in most science fiction such as Star Trek. The poor spaceship Enterprise always seems to run into one kind of 'anomaly' in space or another.

In reality, we have no idea what kinds of things are out there in space. All we can say is that if there are any weird things such as vast cosmic strings, domain walls, textures or what have you, they are not very strong and plentiful. Looking out into space, we do not see lots and lots of 'gravitational lensing' events which cannot be explained in terms of distant galaxies being lensed by the gravitational fields from known foreground galaxies. Any anomalies in spacetime, ought to be accompanied by curvature and lensing of the light from objects behind the 'anomaly' along the line of sight to us. We do not see anything like this.

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All answers are provided by Dr. Sten Odenwald (Raytheon STX) for the NASA Astronomy Cafe, part of the NASA Education and Public Outreach program.