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.

 

 

Commercial equipment today is better than ever!

 

Society for Astronomical Sciences, Ontario, CA, USA June 2016: Presentation Abstract

 

In 1919, astronomers performed an experiment during a solar eclipse, attempting to measure the deflection of stars near the sun, in order to verify Einstein’s theory of general relativity.  The experiment was very difficult and the results were marginal, but the success made Albert Einstein famous around the world.  Astronomers last repeated the experiment in 1973, achieving an error of 11%.  In 2017, using amateur equipment and modern technology, I plan to repeat the experiment and achieve a 1% error.  The best available star catalog will be used for star positions.  Corrections for optical distortion and atmospheric refraction are better than 0.01 arcsec.  During totality, I expect 7 or 8 measurable stars down to magnitude 10, based on analysis of previous eclipse measurements taken by amateurs.  Reference images, taken near the sun during totality, will be used for precise calibration.  Preliminary test runs performed during twilight in April 2016 and April 2017 can accurately simulate the sky con­ditions during totality, providing an accurate estimate of the final uncertainty.

 

(Click here to download the technical paper.)

 

Ctrl+click here to open a new window and view the video presentation on YouTube  (Note the video was taken with an infrared camera to keep the room dark, so my visual appearance is a little funny!)

 

 

A feature article for Sky & Telescope Magazine appeared in the August 2016 issue, with additional description on their web site.

 

(www.skyandtelescope.com/sky-and-telescope-magazine/beyond-the-printed-page/my-do-it-yourself-relativity-test/)

 

 

Data Analysis of Eclipse Images

 

September 18, 2017

By subtracting a blurred corona from each of the 34 images (0.62 second exposures), then combining all of them with a small translation, 21 very accurate, but dim, stars are measureable.  Those are marked with the orange disks, where the diameter of the disk represents the SNR.  Combining the 11 shorter images (0.09 seconds) allowed me to measure the two stars that are close to the sun, along with 7 very accurate reference stars.  Those stars are identified with the blue disks.

 

I was originally hoping to see 8 stars that would be bright enough to get good data (Eddington based his analysis on only 5 stars in 1919!).  The data shows me many more stars, so I am convinced that my final results will be much better.

 

 

Presentations and publications:

 

Society for Astronomical Sciences, paper and lecture, completed June 2016.

Sky & Telescope Magazine, article published August 2016.

Sky & Telescope Magazine special Eclipse issue, August 2017.

Reference to the S&T article at https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/testing-general-relativity

Reference to the S&T article at https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/citizen-science

Applied Optics journal articles, published March 2017 and August 2017.

Discover Magazine blog, interview posted May 5, 2017

Astronomy Magazine list of cool experiments, posted May 15, 2017.

Article in Live Science blog, July 26, 2017; https://www.livescience.com/59940-solar-eclipse-einstein-theory-of-general-relativity.html

Universe of Learning: A presentation from Sonoma State: https://universe-of-learning.org/uploads/.../UoL_Eclipse_Science_Briefing_Final.pdf

Hackaday blog, August 16, 2017: http://hackaday.com/2017/08/16/eclipse-2017-was-einstein-right/

Presentation at AstroCON, August 17, 2017, in Casper, WY. (astrocon2017.astroleague.org/speakers)

Repeat presentation on August 18 at the Lion’s Camp for interested students and astronomers.

Setting up on Casper Mountain, video by Canon: https://www.facebook.com/CanonUSA/videos/1441774269234487/

SHSU Student blog http://cs.astronomy.com/asy/b/astronomy/archive/2017/08/23/guest-blog-bucket-list-astronomy-class-revisiting-einstein.aspx

Newsweek mentions the experiment: http://www.newsweek.com/total-solar-eclipse-2017-america-experiments-scientists-651578

Story about me and my brother getting ready for the eclipse, performing this experiment and one other: http://gazette.com/after-lifelong-wait-for-eclipse-colorado-springs-brothers-ready-for-big-experiment/article/1609472

 

Still to come:

 

Final eclipse report, 2018, to be published in an astronomical journal.

Interview for article in Astronomy magazine or The Physics Teacher.

Follow-up article in Sky & Telescope magazine.

Presentation at NEAF, 2018.

Included in IMAX Einstein documentary movie 2019.

 

Acknowledgements:

 

Al Nagler, Tele Vue Optics, Inc., for loan of the NP101is telescope and optical raytracing.

Greg Terrance, Finger Lakes Instrumentation LLC, for loan of the ML8051 CCD camera.

Stephen Bisque, Software Bisque, Inc., for loan of the MyT Paramount tripod.

George Kaplan and John Bangert, both formerly of USNO, for astrometric advice and help with NOVAS.

Norbert Zacharias, USNO, for astrometric advice.

This research has made use of FORTRAN version of NOVAS, the Naval Observatory Vector Astrometry Software package.

This research has made use of the VizieR catalogue access tool, CDS, Strasbourg, France. The original description of the VizieR service was published in A&AS 143, 23.

Suresh Rajgopal, for help in setting up gfortran.

Corey Bruns, for help in automating the data analysis with linear algebra advice.

Ted Pecoraro, for help in improving the Paramount field tripod feet.

Steve Lang, for help setting up in Wyoming.

Jerry Kassebaum, for suggesting locations near Casper.

Greg Kinne, for help in scripting TheSky.

Ron Bruns, for calibrating weather instruments and operating an auxiliary experiment.


 

Thank you for your interest in Stellar Products!

All content is Copyright 2005-2017 by Don Bruns

All text and images are owned by Stellar Products, 1992-2017. Any use by others without permission of Stellar Products is prohibited. For information on commercial use of any of these images, click here.

Web page last updated July 21, 2017.