Repeating the Experiment that Made Einstein Famous
An attempt to measure the solar deflection of stars during the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse to the highest precision ever realized
In 1919, shortly after Einstein’s theory of General Relativity predicted a very small effect, teams of scientists attempted to measure this effect during an eclipse seen in Africa and Brazil. The results made front-page headlines and catapulted Einstein to world-wide fame. The experiment is very difficult, and even after additional attempts as recently as 1973, the eclipse results have never been better than about 6%. With modern technology (an NP101is telescope provided by Tele Vue, a Microline ML8051CCD camera provided by Finger Lakes, and a tripod provided by Software Bisque), this historic experiment was repeated without an army of workers moving 6 tons of equipment to another continent. With astrometric advice from the US Naval Observatory and careful preparation, I set up in Wyoming to perform this experiment, the most difficult challenge of my career. I expect to complete the experiment with a precision of 2%.
August 28, 2017 update: Success! Perfect focus, perfect exposures, perfect timing, perfect tracking, no wind, no clouds, excellent seeing. For the first time since 1919, everything worked as planned!
May 14, 2018: The analysis is completed and published in Classical and Quantum Gravity. Result: L = 1.7512, in perfect agreement with the theoretical value.
June 22, 2018 update: Deflection graph finished. Comparison with 1922 results show the improvement.
(Left) Don and Carol, next to equipment on custom base built by Steve Lang. (Center) My measured deflections, scaled 800x. (Right) Deflections Measured in1922, scaled 2250x.
(Clicking on any image takes you my 2017 experiment web page.)
Stellar Products was the first company to manufacture standard adaptive optics systems to both amateur and professional astronomers. The AO-2 adaptive optics system provided image stabilization for planetary photography. The AO-5 adaptive optics system will provide correction of defocus and astigmatism as well as image stabilization. Either of these systems allows the astronomer to improve his images to the limit of his telescope.
Mars, August 9, 2003, using a webcam
Saturn, December 29, 2000, using AO-2 system
Jupiter, January 7, 2001, using AO-2 system
(For best viewing, please maximize your monitor brightness and adjust the contrast until you can see each of the 17 gray scales shown here)
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Web page last updated November 12, 2018.