Einstein Was Right

Lick Observatory’s Test of the General Theory of Relativity

Friday, September 23–Monday, January 2, 2023

Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery 6

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All Ages

Note: Free with museum admission—and it's always free for Daytime members and donors. Just bring your membership card and ID. The Tactile Dome is currently closed.

Preview at After Dark: Thursday, September 22, 2022 • 6:00–10:00 p.m. (Adults 18+)

One hundred years ago, a Bay Area observatory played a critical role in testing one of Einstein’s greatest and most beautiful theories—general relativity. This temporary exhibition tells the story of this scientific quest, through original scientific instruments, artifacts, logbooks, films, correspondence, and photographs, including one of the glass plate negatives that verified the theory, taken in Wallal, Australia during the 1922 solar eclipse.

According to Einstein, starlight passing near the Sun would be bent by its strong gravity, causing those stars to appear in slightly different positions. During a total solar eclipse, it’s briefly possible to observe stars near the Sun as if it were nighttime, so Einstein urged astronomers to attempt this observation. The exhibition details Lick Observatory’s ultimate success, and their previous attempts which were foiled by inconclusive data and cloudy skies.

Materials for this exhibition were curated from Lick Observatory’s Historical Collections Project, the University of California Santa Cruz’s Special Collections, and the Australian National Film and Sound Archive.

Photo: Positive of a plate taken with the 5-foot Einstein camera at the 1922 eclipse in Wallal, Australia. The circles indicate the locations of the stars on the plate measured to test the “Einstein effect.” © UC Regents/UCSC Special Collections.