Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Einstein’s General Theory Of Relativity: Celebrating The 20th Century's Most Important Experiment

Date:
June 2, 2009
Source:
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS)
Summary:
In 1919, the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) launched an expedition to the West African island of Príncipe, to observe a total solar eclipse and prove or disprove Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Now, in a new RAS-funded expedition for the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009), scientists are back. Astronomers Professor Pedro Ferreira from the University of Oxford and Dr Richard Massey from the University of Edinburgh, along with Oxford anthropologist Dr Gisa Weszkalnys, are paying homage to the original expedition led by Sir Arthur Eddington and celebrating the 90th anniversary of one of the key discoveries of the 20th century.

The story as reported in the 22nd November 1919 edition of the 'Illustrated London News'.
Credit: Image courtesy of Royal Astronomical Society

In 1919, the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) launched an expedition to the West African island of Príncipe, to observe a total solar eclipse and prove or disprove Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. Now, in a new RAS-funded expedition for the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009), scientists are back.

Astronomers Professor Pedro Ferreira from the University of Oxford and Dr Richard Massey from the University of Edinburgh, along with Oxford anthropologist Dr Gisa Weszkalnys, are paying homage to the original expedition led by Sir Arthur Eddington and celebrating the 90th anniversary of one of the key discoveries of the 20th century.

Einstein first proposed his General Theory of Relativity in 1915. It describes how any massive object, such as the Sun, creates gravity by bending space and time around it. Everything in that space is also bent: even rays of light. Consequently, distant light sources, behind the massive object, can appear in a different position or look brighter than they would otherwise.

The total eclipse of 29th May 1919 gave scientists the chance to test the theory for the first time. Eddington travelled to Príncipe to observe the eclipse and measure the apparent locations of stars near the Sun. Heavy clouds parted minutes before the eclipse and, with the Sun almost directly in front of them, the stars appeared to be shifted from the positions that Eddington had recorded in Oxford 4 months earlier – direct evidence that our nearest star shapes the space around it.

 “This first observational proof of General Relativity sent shockwaves through the scientific establishment,” said Professor Ferreira. “It changed the goalposts for physics.”

To mark the anniversary, in partnership with the International Astronomical Union, São Toméan and Portuguese governments, the team will gather with local people for a series of public talks, the installation of an exhibition in the capital Santo Antόnio, and the unveiling of a plaque at the plantation where the original observation was made. Dr. Weszkalnys feels it “particularly important that in 2009, the International Year of Astronomy, the dramatic role played in the history of science by a tiny island like Príncipe should not be forgotten.”

Eddington’s 1919 measurement of the bending of light was used to determine the nature of gravity. At the time, even Einstein saw no further uses. “But now that gravity is well understood,” said Dr. Massey, “the effect, known as ‘gravitational lensing’, has become one of our most powerful tools to study the Universe.”

Gravitational lenses work in a similar way to ordinary glass lenses, focusing and magnifying light – but on a huge scale. They enable astronomers like Dr Massey to see objects that are otherwise too far away or faint for even the largest telescopes on Earth.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). "Einstein’s General Theory Of Relativity: Celebrating The 20th Century's Most Important Experiment." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 June 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090528204402.htm>.
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). (2009, June 2). Einstein’s General Theory Of Relativity: Celebrating The 20th Century's Most Important Experiment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090528204402.htm
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). "Einstein’s General Theory Of Relativity: Celebrating The 20th Century's Most Important Experiment." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090528204402.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) — British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) — A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

AP (July 30, 2014) — Smartphone powered paper airplane that was popular on crowdfunding website KickStarter makes its debut at Wisconsin airshow (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.K. To Allow Driverless Cars On Public Roads

U.K. To Allow Driverless Cars On Public Roads

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — Driverless cars could soon become a staple on U.K. city streets, as they're set to be introduced to a few cities in 2015. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:  

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile iPhone Android Web
      Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins