In 1918, two Austrian scientists, Josef Lense and Hans Thirring,
proposed that if Einstein's General Relativity was right then spinning
objects, including Earth, should twist and drag the fabric of
spacetime. The phenomenon, known as the Lense-Thirring effect or
frame-dragging, is usually too small to detect, but has been
demonstrated in an experiment that measured the subtle movements of
gyroscopes placed into space above Earth.
Astronomers monitoring a binary system containing
a pulsar and a white dwarf
with the Parkes radio telescope have now detected the effect.
In the PSR J1141-6545 system, the effect is 100 million times
stronger than it is above the Earth. The spinning pulsar and white dwarf
orbit each other every five hours and the regular radio pulses
from the pulsar allow the evolution of the binary system to
to traced in exquisite detail.
The results are presented
in a paper published in the journal Science.