Astronomy Without A Telescope – Knots In Space

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So finally you possess that most valuable of commodities, a traversable wormhole – and somehow or other you grab one end of it and accelerate it to a very rapid velocity.

This might only take you a couple of weeks since you accelerate to the same velocity as your end of the wormhole. But for a friend who has sat waiting at the first entrance to the wormhole, time dilation means that ten years might have passed while you have mucked about at close-to-light-speed-velocities with the other end of the wormhole.

So when you decide to travel back through the wormhole to see your friend, you naturally maintain your own frame of reference and hence your own proper time, as is indicated by observing the watch on your wrist. So when you emerge at the other end of the wormhole, you can surprise your ageing partner with a newspaper you grabbed from 2011 – since he now lives in 2021.

You encourage your friend to come back with you through the wormhole – and traveling ten years back in time to 2011, he spends an enjoyable few days following his ten year younger self around, sending cryptic text messages that encourages his younger self to invent transparent aluminum. However, your friend is disappointed to find that when you both travel back through the wormhole to 2021, his bank account remains depressing low, because the wormhole is connected to what has become an alternate universe – where the time travel event that you just experienced, never happened.

You also realize that your wormhole time machine has other limits. You can further accelerate your end of the wormhole to 100 or even 1000 years of time dilation, but it still remains the case that you can only travel back in time as far as 2011, when you first decided to accelerate your end of the wormhole.

But anyway, wouldn’t it be great if any of this was actually possible? If you looked out into the universe to try and observe a traversable wormhole – you might start by looking for an Einstein ring. A light source from another universe (or a light source from a different time in an analogue of this universe) should be ‘lensed’ by the warped space-time of the wormhole – if the wormhole and the light source are in your direct line of sight. If all of that is plausible, then the light source should appear as a bright ring of light.

The theoretical light signatures of a donut-shaped 'ringhole' type wormhole and a Klein bottle 'time machine'. The ringhole signature is a double Einstein ring - and the Klein bottle signature is two concentric truncated spirals. A Klein bottle time machine is a wormhole of warped space-time where the exit has the identical spatial position as the entrance - so going through it means you should only travel in time. Credit: González-Díaz and Alonso-Serrano.

In fact there’s lots of these Einstein rings out there , but a more mundane cause for their existence is generally attributed to gravitational lensing by a massive object (like a galactic cluster) situated between you and a bright light source – all of which are still in our universe.

A recent theoretical letter has proposed that a ringhole rather than a wormhole structure might arise from an unlikely set of circumstances (i.e. this is pure theory – best just to go with it). So rather than a straight tube you could have a toroidal ‘donut’ connection with an alternate universe – which should then create a double Einstein ring – being two concentric circles of light.

This is a much rarer phenomenon and the authors suggest that the one well known instance (SDSSJ0946+1006) needs to be explained by the fortuitous alignment of three massive galactic clusters – which is starting to stretch belief a little… maybe?

Whether or not you find that a convincing argument, the authors then propose that if a Klein bottle wormhole existed – it would create such an unlikely visual phenomenon (two concentric truncated spirals of light) that surely then we might concede that such exotic structures exist?

And OK, if we ever do observe two concentric truncated spirals in the sky that could be pause for thought. Watch this space.

Further reading: González-Díaz and Alonso-Serrano Observing other universes through ringholes and Klein-bottle holes.

Steve Nerlich

Steve Nerlich is a very amateur Australian astronomer, publisher of the Cheap Astronomy website and the weekly Cheap Astronomy Podcasts and one of the team of volunteer explainers at Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex - part of NASA's Deep Space Network.

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