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What is Gravitational Lensing?

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 28, Apr 2022
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This article forms a part of The Hindu’s Science for All newsletter, which explains all things Science, without the jargon.

What is gravitational lensing? How does it work?

  • Gravitational lensing is an effect of Einstein’s theory of general relativity – simply put, mass bends light.
  • The gravitational field of a massive object will extend far into space, and cause light rays passing close to that object (and thus through its gravitational field) to be bent and refocused somewhere else.
  • The more massive the object, the stronger its gravitational field and hence the greater the bending of light rays – just like using denser materials to make optical lenses results in a greater amount of refraction. 


  • Gravitational lensing is useful to cosmologists because it is directly sensitive to the amount and distribution of dark matter.
  • Lensing can help astronomers work out exactly how much dark matter there is in the Universe as a whole and also how it is distributed.
  • Lensing has also been used to help verify the existence of dark matter itself.