HONG KONG, China — In science-fiction, wormholes take space travelers across great distances through space and time. However, a new study finds that wormholes may actually be science-fact!
Scientists found these “tunnels” may magnify light by a factor of 100,000, which is key to finding them in space. Albert Einstein predicted their existence more than a century ago in his theory of general relativity.
Now, a Chinese team believes we may be able to spot them, thanks to a phenomenon called “gravitational lensing.” It happens when galaxies warp the fabric of space, creating a natural magnifying glass that greatly boosts light from distant background objects.
Under the right conditions, one could theoretically use a wormhole to cut interstellar travel from millions of years to hours or even minutes.
“We systematically investigate the microlensing effect of a charged spherically symmetric wormhole, where the light source is remote from the throat,” writes lead author Dr. Mian Zhu from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in a study is published in the journal Physical Review D.
The scientists say these would flare out on either side of the “cosmic subway.”
“The numerical result shows that the range of total magnification is from 105 to 10-2
depending on various metrics,” the team explains. “Our theoretical investigation could shed new light on exploring the wormhole with the microlensing effect.”
Wormholes could even act like time machines. Study authors believe travelers might emerge from one end earlier than when they entered the other side.
Wormholes have been a prominent part of science-fiction for many years, appearing in movies and series like “Interstellar,” “Stargate,” and “Star Trek.”
Gravitational lensing is like observing galaxies under the microscope. Light is stretched due to the gravitational field of the cosmic object in front of it, Dr. Zhu’s team says. Wormholes may be some of the most powerful lenses around. Machines like the James Webb Space Telescope could help to spot them.
The technique is already used to probe some of the biggest mysteries of the universe, such as dark matter and the finer points of general relativity. Dr. Zhu and the team calculated how a wormhole with an electric charge would magnify and warp the light of objects behind it, opening the door to proving their existence.
Distinguishing them would be possible by looking for small differences from black holes, the team says. Gravitational lensing splits and warps light in such a way it often produces multiple images of an object.
For black holes, the process can result in any number of copies. For charged wormholes, however, the researchers found there can only be either one image or three.
“Remarkably, there will be at most three images by considering the charge part. We study all the situations including three images, two images, and one image, respectively,” the scientists write.
“If there are three, one should be extremely bright and the other two should be slightly dimmer,” researchers say, according to SWNS. “In these images gravitational lensing can magnify an object by as much as 100,000 times.”
If a group each produced this pattern, that could help confirm they were wormholes rather than black holes.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.