In Star Trek, a distortion ring (also called a spatial distortion wave) is a spatial anomaly where the shape of space-time itself is changing.  In the Star Trek Voyager episode "Twisted", the USS Voyager was caught by a moving distortion ring, which collapsed its warp field and enveloped the ship. Most of the crew were trapped in various sections of the ship, unable to reach most systems as the spatial distortions continuously reconfigured the vessel's interior. Based on tricorder data, it seemed that the ship was also slowly being crushed by a spatial implosion.





A distrtion ring, as depicted in 'Twisted'

In real astrophysics, spatial anomalies where the shape of space-time itself can change have actually been detected around black holes. The first space-time distortion by black holes was detected by astronomers in 1997 using NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) spacecraft. They observed a black hole that was literally dragging space and time around itself as it rotates. This bizarre effect, called "frame dragging," is the first evidence to support a prediction made in 1918 using Einstein's theory of relativity. The phenomenon is distorting the orbit of hot, X-ray emitting gas near the black hole, causing the X-rays to peak at periods that match the frame-dragging predictions of general relativity.

It is not just black holes that warp space-time. Again, according to Einstein's general relativity, the Earth itself warps space-time. Accordingly, there is a greater change in spin direction, which is now called the geodetic effect, and also obeys the gyroscope's motion through the spacetime curvature. The geodetic effect represents the effect of the curvature of space-time on a spinning, moving body. This effect was detected in 1988 through lunar ranging and radio interferometry data gathering. The geodetic effect was verified in 2007 by the Gravity Probe B, an experiment which measures the tilting of the spin axis of gyroscopes in orbit about the Earth






Frame dragging around a black hole





 
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