• Question: how do you test the theorys of newtron stars?

    Asked by Nathan to Emma on 8 Mar 2016.
    • Photo: Emma Dean

      Emma Dean answered on 8 Mar 2016:

      Good question! Quite often astrophysicists spot something unusual in their observations and then the theorists try to explain what the cause of the phenomena is. After much thought and plenty of mathematics, promising looking theories are calculated in depth using computer models. Computers are excellent tools. In a couple of hours a computer can calculate how a system would evolve over many years. Once this process is complete, the results from the computer is compared to the real-life observations. The theory that matches the observations the best is then published. Other scientists can use this information and test the theories further.

      The reverse process also happens. A good theory can be tested experimentally. Sometimes the technology at the time isn’t advanced enough to do this, so there may be a long wait. A great example of this is Einstein’s theory of relativity. In 1916, his theory predicted the existence of gravitational waves. This result was only confirmed a couple of a weeks ago, 100 years later.