Arthur Eddington

Discovering the Stellar Interiors of Life

Background Information

His full name is Arthur Stanley Eddington. He was born on the 28th of December in 1882 and died the 22nd of November 1944. He was a British astronomer, physicist, and mathematician who specialized in astrophysics. He came up with the Eddington limit that is the natural limit to the luminosity of stars, or the radiation generated by accretion onto a compact object. Arthur is also famous for his theory of reality.


INTERESTED IN SCIENCE

Websites on Arthur Eddington don't really specify how he became interested in the science fields. They do tell how he worked at the Royal Observatory where he studied in practical science for 7 years. He had 2 other missions that he wanted to accomplish after is 7 years at the Royal Observatory. He was 24 years old during the time that he was working.


HARDSHIPS

One hardship was that many people thought that his later science and theology was weak. Arthur was trying to get his Fundamental Theory known to the word. This was a hardship because it led nowhere. Lastly, another hardship was that many people questioned what he called facts and where he got his information from. Nobody really believed him.

Light Bending Experiment

By the time he developed his general theory, Einstein was back in Germany, working in Berlin. But a copy of his general theory of relativity was soon smuggled through war-torn Europe to Cambridge. There it was read by Arthur Stanley Eddington, Britain’s leading astrophysicist. Eddington realized that Einstein’s theory could be tested. If space really was distorted by gravity, then light passing through it would not travel in a straight line, but would follow a curved path. The stronger the force of gravity, the more the light would be bent. The bending would be largest for light passing very close to a very massive body, such as the Sun.

Unfortunately, the most massive objects known to astronomers at the time were also very bright. This was before black holes were seriously considered, and stars provided the strongest gravitational fields known. The Sun was particularly useful, being a star right on our doorstep. But it is impossible to see how the light from faint background stars might be bent by the Sun’s gravity, because the Sun’s light is so bright it completely swamps the light from objects beyond it.

Eddington realized the solution. Observe during a total eclipse, when the Sun’s light is blotted out for a few minutes, and you can see distant stars that appear close to the Sun in the sky. If Einstein was right, the Sun’s gravity would shift these stars to slightly different positions, compared to where they are seen in the night sky at other times of the year when the Sun far away from them. The closer the star appears to the Sun during totality, the bigger the shift would be.

Eddington began to put pressure on the British scientific establishment to organize an experiment. The Astronomer Royal of the time, Sir Frank Watson Dyson, realized that the 1919 eclipse was ideal. Not only was totality unusually long (around six minutes, compared with the two minutes we experienced in 1999) but during totality the Sun would be right in front of the Hyades, a cluster of bright stars.

But at this point the story took a twist. Eddington was a Quaker and, as such, a pacifist. In 1917, after disastrous losses during the Somme offensive, the British government introduced conscription to the armed forces. Eddington refused the draft and was threatened with imprisonment. In the end, Dyson’s intervention was crucial persuading the government to spare Eddington. His conscription was postponed under the condition that, if the war had finished by 1919, Eddington himself would lead an expedition to measure the bending of light by the Sun. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Ten facts about Arthur Eddington

Extra Credit

Arthur Eddington is the most influential scientist in history. Arthur was the talk of the town because most people didn't believe his different theories. Besides all of the negative tings tat were said about him, he still managed to continue to pursue his dreams as a scientist. He went back over Einsteins theory and made it a law. This means that he proved it to be true.

Arthur Eddington has a compact object named after him. It's kind of obvious that you must have done something important to the society when they name something after you. He mastered theories of relativity. Eddington was the only one who could explain the theory of the solar eclipse. These are the different reasons why I think my scientists is the best