100 Years Ago Today, a Total Solar Eclipse Experiment Confirmed Einstein's Theory of Relativity

Space.com | 5/29/2019 | Doris Elin Salazar
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One hundred years ago today, in the wake of the first World War, a British astronomer watched a solar eclipse for signs that a German physicist may have been right about warps in the universe.

The bold new theoretical ideas belonged to Albert Einstein, whose last name is synonymous with genius. But his name didn't always produce that feeling: People doubted that his theories described reality, and it took a special experiment during a solar eclipse to cement Einstein as a physics legend.

Eclipses - Years - Earth - Moon - Body

Solar eclipses are just as miraculous as they might feel: Every few years, Earth's moon is able to completely and precisely blot out the body of the sun as viewed from our planet. As pictures taken by NASA's Curiosity rover in March 2019 point out, planets like Mars don't have the same luck, even with two moons to work with. The position and size of Earth's moon happens to exactly coincide with the position and size of the moon.

NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars spotted the moon Phobos passing in front of the sun on March 26, 2019.

Addition - Spectacle - Eclipses - Opportunities - Kinds

In addition to being a spectacle, solar eclipses provide opportunities to do different kinds of research, like studying the solar corona — the sun's outer atmosphere — or nature's responses to the dimming light. In 1919, Arthur Eddington and his research team set out to look for signs that the gravity of massive objects could bend light, proving Einstein right and positively developing theoretical physics beyond the classical mechanics of Isaac Newton.

If starlight traveling past could be diverted by the sun's massive bulk, the stars would appear in slightly different positions when viewed from Earth after passing the sun. But when the sun is in the sky, it's too bright to see nearby stars — except for during an eclipse.


On May 29,...
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