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Light Askew in the Heavens!!

This week marks the centenary of Edington's Experiment during the Solar Eclipse of 1919 that verified Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. The photo to the left is from the New York Times and shows how the story was covered at the time, and made Einstein a super star.

The experiment showed that light from distant stars was being bent by the gravity of the sun, just as Einstein had predicted.

The experiment was carried out in Brazil and getting there through the wreckage left after WW1 was in itself no mean feat. An Irish Physicist, Andrew Crommelin from Cushendun in Co Antrim, was a key figure in the expedition.

At the Frontiers of Physics conference in Dublin a few years ago, Prof Tom Ray of the Dublin Institute of Advance Studies presented a fascinating talk about the expedition. He also brought to the event a recently rediscovered instrument from the 1919 expedition – a Grubb manufactured coelostat - manufactured in the renowned workshop on Observatory Lane in Rathmines.

Remarkably, its rediscovery led to the amazing finding that Eddington's expedition may not have been necessary at all. There is some evidence that Sir Frank Dyson, the Astronomer Royal, ignored the fact that earlier readings might have been enough to test Einstein's theory and pushed the new expedition to protect Eddington, a pacifist, from being conscripted into the British Army during World War I.

Necessary or not, though, it brought Einstein's physics to prominence outside the world of specialists, and secured a rare front-page story for pure science.

And don't forget that Frontiers of Physics is coming up again soon - in September, in Waterford. Always a great day.

The Irish Time story is here:

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