A solar eclipse that confirmed Einstein's theory of general relativity

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

In 1905, Albert Einstein was an unknown physicist working discreetly in an office at the patent office in Bern, Switzerland. That hard work, however, left him many free hours to give free rein to his theories and ideas about the universe. Under his desk he kept a drawer in which he kept his calculations and notes, a drawer which, with his peculiar sense of humor, he called “my own department of theoretical physics.” But that year 1905 was not going to be just any year, and indeed today it is “Annas mirabilis” and Einstein would take out his entire body armor from that wonderful closet Four Essays that will completely change the history of science.

The first of these articles explained Photoelectric effect Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics for this work alone. A second study devoted Brownian motionA third was introduced Special Theory of Relativity And, finally, in the fourth article he developed Mass-energy balance Today we all know the abbreviation, E=mc².

And yet, all of those essays mean Einstein hasn't raised his hand…yet The fifth fundamental article is missingA theory that he would publish a decade later (1915), it would be called: General theory of relativity.

The physics of celestial bodies held together by Newton's gravitation was about to take an unexpected turn…the cosmic fabric formed by space-time was now bent in the presence of mass and energy. The equations fit perfectly but a boost was needed to confirm the accuracy of this theory. Albert Einstein was a great theoretical thinker whose equations explained physical reality in a revolutionary way. A test that implements and validates them They are just ideas on paper…

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Fortunately, the cosmological experiment required by general relativity is not so unusual that, as we see these days, it usually happens every now and then… Albert Einstein needed an eclipse In order to verify that the predictions of his theory occurred in the real world.

Illustration of an experiment confirming the general theory of relativity during the 1919 solar eclipseIllustration of an experiment confirming the general theory of relativity during the 1919 solar eclipse

Illustration of an experiment confirming the general theory of relativity during the 1919 solar eclipse

In 1915, something very interesting about eclipses An opportunity to check the deflection of light by the Sun's gravity, thus proving Einstein right. According to Newton, light had no mass, but the new theory stated that light not only has mass but is also affected by the gravitational pull of celestial bodies such as the Sun.

To verify this light deviation, a team of British astronomers led by Arthur Eddington, Frank Watson Dyson and Andrew Crommelin visited two specific locations where many stars could be seen during the total solar eclipse that occurred exactly on the 29th. . May 1919. Eddington traveled to Principe Island (Africa) and Crommelin to Sobral, Brazil. Everyone was familiar with the position of certain stars in the night sky, but now they can measure the position of the same stars during an eclipse, which is possible. Determine whether the rays are indeed bent As it moves closer to the Sun's gravitational pull.

Eddington and Crommelin They got pictures of the eclipse Using the technology of the time: photographic plates made of glass (precisely the images I used in this text) and for the first time, it was possible to confirm that light was affected by the Sun's gravity … General Theory of Relativity His prediction was correct And, since then, astronomers and astrophysicists have continued to use eclipses to measure the deviation proposed by Einstein.

Today, this simple experiment is well known and replicated around the world. In fact, recently, A Amateur astronomer He reaffirmed Einstein's ideas from his backyard during the 2017 eclipse.

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