A view from the top of the world by Miguel M. Costa.

14th of November 2016 | The Moon at the plantation Terreiro Velho in Principe.

Here, in the heat of the night the SuperMoon smiles at Terreiro Velho.

The old plantation house shines in the dancing moonlight.

BIT OF HISTORY | Down the road from Terreiro Velho plantation, history was made. It was written in the stars that the May 29,1919 eclipse of the Sun would be the most important eclipse in the history of humankind.

On May 29, 1919, the English astronomer Arthur Eddington catapulted Albert Einstein into celebrity by proving the most significant scientific model of the universe since Newtonian gravity: the General Theory of Relativity.

For a quarter millennium, Newton’s conception of space as static and absolute had gone unquestioned. According to his theory, gravity is a force that acts through space but not on space; and light travels only in straight lines.

According to Einstein’s theory, space and time are one entity and gravity is a force caused by spacetime: Massive objects don’t merely draw small objects with their gravitational pull but bend the fabric of spacetime itself with their mass, pulling smaller objects into the depressions and bending light along the curvature.

At the time, when very few scientists considered relativity plausible, Eddington set out to test Einstein’s theory. He traveled to the tiny island of PRINCIPE to observe the longest total solar eclipse — 6 minutes and 51 seconds — in five centuries.

Eddington hoped to see light of the Hyades cluster positioned directly behind the Sun from Earth’s vantage point. If Einstein was right and Newton wrong, the sun’s massive gravitational field would warp spacetime itself, bending the path of the light to make it visible from Earth.

After days of heavy rains and overcast skies, Eddington and his crew watched in awe as the clouds parted just in time for the eclipse, clearing the way for the telescope.

As totality swept they took several photographic plates. All but two were ruined by the crude technology — but in those two, the Hyades clearly speckled the side of the Sun, matching Einstein’s theoretical prediction and disproving Newton.


Panos Panagos
Panos Panagos


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