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Solar eclipse that confirmed Einstein's theory of general relativity

Solar eclipse that confirmed Einstein's theory of general relativity

Highest resolution image of the 1919 solar eclipse (enhanced by the European Southern Observatory (ESO))

In 1905, Albert Einstein was just a little-known physicist working discreetly in an office at the Bern Patent Office in Switzerland. However, this hard work left him many free hours to unleash his theories and ideas about the universe. Under his desk was a drawer in which he kept his calculations and notes, a drawer which he called, with his peculiar sense of humour, “my theoretical physics department.” But that year, 1905, was not just any year; in fact, it is called a “year” today.Great year“And from this wonderful drawer Einstein will pull out his entire material arsenal to publish it four Articles that would completely change the history of science.

I explained the first of these articles Photoelectric effect For this work alone, Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics. The second study was devoted to: Brownian motionThe third was presented Special theory of relativity Finally, in the fourth article, he developed Mass and energy equation Which we all know today in short as E=mc².

However, those articles were not all that Einstein had up his sleeve The fifth main article was missingIt is a theory that will be published a decade later (1915) and will be called: General theory of relativity.

The physics of celestial bodies, unified by the gravity proclaimed by Newton, was to take an unexpected turn… The universal fabric comprising space-time was now curved in the presence of mass and energy. The equations fit perfectly, but this theory needs to be strengthened for accuracy. Albert Einstein was a great theoretical thinker, and his equations explained physical reality in a revolutionary way, but without it An experience that will put it into practice and confirm it They will be just ideas on paper…

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Fortunately, the cosmic experience required by general relativity is not unusual, and as we see these days, it usually happens from time to time… Albert Einstein needed an eclipse In order to verify that the predictions of his theory occurred in the real world.

Infographic of the experiment confirming the theory of general relativity in the 1919 solar eclipseInfographic of the experiment confirming the theory of general relativity in the 1919 solar eclipse

Infographic of the experiment confirming the theory of general relativity in the 1919 solar eclipse

In 1915, the most interesting thing about the eclipse was… An opportunity to investigate the deflection of light by the sun's gravityThus proving Einstein right. For Newton, light had no mass, but the new theory stated that light not only had mass, but would also be affected by the gravity of celestial bodies, such as the Sun.

To investigate this deflection of light, a group of British astronomers, led by Arthur Eddington, Frank Watson Dyson and Andrew Cromelin, set out to two very specific locations where they could observe several stars during the total solar eclipse that will occur exactly on the 29th. May 1919. Eddington traveled to the island of Principe (Africa), and Crommelin traveled to the Brazilian city of Sobral. Everyone used to know very well the positions of certain stars in the night sky, but now they can measure the positions of those same stars during an eclipse and it will be possible Determine whether the light rays are actually bent When passing near the sun's gravitational field.

Eddington and Crumlin They got pictures of the eclipse Using the technology of the time: photographic plates made of glass (specifically the photographs I used in this text) I was able to confirm, for the first time, that light is indeed affected by the Sun's gravity… General Theory of Relativity He was right in his prediction Since then, astronomers and astrophysicists have continued to use eclipses to measure the deflection proposed by Einstein.

Today, this simple experiment is one of the best known and repeated around the world. In fact, recently, A Amateur astronomer Einstein's thoughts were confirmed from his backyard during the 2017 eclipse.

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