25th May - 2nd June: This year is the 100th anniversary of the total solar eclipse that helped to support Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. One of the lenses used to photograph this historic eclipse on the 29th May 1919 is still part of one of our working telescopes. We are celebrating throughout the week both during the day and on some evenings. There will be lots of fantastic family activities plus talks and displays.
We will be hosting fun interactive family activities during each day throughout the week. These activities except the planetarium are free with your normal admission.
- Tours into our 13-inch Astrographic refractor, the lens of which was taken to Sobral in Brazil to photograph the total solar eclipse.
- Solar telescopes on the lawns with local Astronomical Societies.
- Displays helping to explain in more simple terms what General Relativity is and how it was supported.
- Displays to show how 100 years on Einstein's theories are still being proven.
- A giant rubber sheet and a heavy ball and lots of volunteers to show the warping of spacetime.
- Making radio receivers in the Radio Shack (in a separate venue to the Science Centre - near to the main entrance)
- Drop-in activities explaining gravity at 11am - 1pm and 2pm - 4pm every day
- Planetarium shows on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday ONLY (extra £2 per person)
Additional DAYTIME activities to the ones listed above:
The actual anniversary 29th May:
- Dr Stephen Wilkins from the University of Sussex will be giving a talk in Dome B at 12.30pm, 2pm and 3.30pm. The talk will introduce General Relativity and are suititable for ages 8 and up.
- Graham Dolan from The Royal Greenwich Observatory will join us in the afternoon and be will talking about the 13-Astrographic refractor in the dome itself.
- We will also have a live link with Principe, the site off the west coast of Africa where Sir Arthur Eddington and Edwin Cottingham took photographs of the eclipse using the Oxford lens that is displayed in our 'Domes of Discovery' exhibition in Dome F. This will be at 4.30pm in Dome F and there will be a screen for visitors to see the link but there will be very limited space in the dome.
Saturday 1st June:
Professor Martin Hendry will be joining us during the day for hands-on activities/workshops.
NORMAL ADMISSION PRICES APPLY TO BOTH DAY AND EVENING ACTIVITIES. Admission Prices
Join us and bend the 'fabric of space-time'
We will be opening during the evenings of the 25th May and 29th May and the 1st June from 6.30pm to midnight. On each of the evenings there will be a speaker giving a fascinating talk. See below.
During the evening the talk will be followed by viewing through the historic telescopes including the guide scope of the 13-inch astrographic refractor.
Booking is not essential but if you would like to book in advance for the EVENING talks then please phone The Centre on 01323 832731 and you can reserve your place(s) using a debit or credit card. Gift Tickets are available for the evening talks. No pre-booking for daytime entry, please just turn up and pay on the door.
There will be food available on all the evening events but try and get here early so you are able to buy your food before the programme for the evening starts at about 8pm.
Evening of 25th May
Dr Robin Catchpole, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge
The theories of General and Special relativity underlie much of our lives today. In early 1919 almost no-one had heard of Einstein, by the end of the year he was famous. At the eclipse in May 1919 one of the predictions of General relativity was put to the test and found to be correct. In this talk, after a brief introduction to Relativity, we will see how this was done by two expeditions sent to observe the eclipse from South America and Africa.
Evening of 29th May
Dr Stephen Wilkins, University of Sussex
TITLE: An Introduction to Relativity
The theory of relativity encompasses two interrelated theories developed by Albert Einstein in the early 20th century: special relativity and general relativity. Special and general relativity describe the mechanics of objects and the force of gravity respectively. Relativity transformed theoretical physics and astronomy during the 20th century, superseding the 200-year old theory of mechanics created primarily by Isaac Newton. It introduced concepts including spacetime as the unified entity of space and time, time dilation, and length contraction, many of which appear counter-intuitive. Relativity also has consequences for astronomy and cosmology with phenomenon such as neutron stars, black holes, and gravitational waves emerging as a result. In this talk I’ll introduce the motivation, foundations, and consequences of the theory of relativity in an accessible way.
Suitable for ages 11 and up.
Evening of 1st June
Professor Martin Hendry, University of Glasgow
TITLE: “Einstein’s Greatest Masterpiece: Testing General Relativity, past present and future”
Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity was first published in 1915 and dramatically re-shaped our understanding of gravity, space and time. Its influence on the technology that underpins our modern world is huge – affecting everything from the GPS satellites that help us find out where we are to the precision timing of the atomic clocks that regulate our global financial transactions.
The first high-profile tests of Einstein’s theory came in 1919, when its prediction that gravity bends light could be tested during a total solar eclipse. Expeditions were organised to observe the eclipse on May 29th 1919 – including one led by British astronomer Arthur Eddington that was a great success, and helped bring Einstein’s remarkable theory to the attention of the world.
Join University of Glasgow astronomer Martin Hendry as he tells the story of Einstein and Eddington, and the 1919 test of general relativity - and how those results have led all the way to the very latest studies of gravity and black holes using gravitational waves and the dramatic new images from the Event Horizon Telescope.
This week of celebrations is being funded by the Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) and we are very grateful for their contribution to these events and activities.
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The Observatory Science Centre is part of Science Projects Ltd, a company limited by guarantee registered in England No: 02186073 and a registered charity No: 298542. The registered office is 3 – 15 Stirling Road, Acton, London. W3 8DJ. UK.