This Space.com article “Solar Eclipse Science Helps Prove Einstein’s Relativity Theory in Nat Geo’s ‘Genius’” published on May 30, 2017, reminded me of the connection between the study of solar eclipses and Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
While the U.S. prepares for the Great American Total Solar Eclipse coming on Aug. 21, National Geographic’s “Genius” recounts how a solar eclipse helped to prove Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
The latest installment of the new global event series airs tonight (May 30) at 9 p.m. EDT on the National Geographic Channel. In this episode, Einstein seeks funding for an expedition to see a total solar eclipse, because he believes that by observing stars near the sun, he can prove that gravity bends light.
The Space.com article contains a short promo for the National Geographic’s series. National Geographic has a clip “There is no Vulcan” from Chapter 6 of the series in which “Einstein explains his radical theory that the sun’s gravity bends light, disproving the existence of the planet Vulcan.”
The observation of a total solar eclipse of May 29, 1919, helped to confirm Einstein‘s theory of general relativity. By comparing the apparent distance between stars in the constellation Taurus, with and without the Sun between them, Arthur Eddington stated that the theoretical predictions about gravitational lenses were confirmed. The observation with the Sun between the stars was only possible during totality since the stars are then visible. Though Eddington’s observations were near the experimental limits of accuracy at the time, work in the later half of the 20th century confirmed his results.