Photonics Dictionary

Michelson-Morley experiment

An optical experiment carried out conclusively in 1887 that demonstrated that the ether, a hypothetical medium postulated by physicists to explain how light could travel in a wave motion through otherwise empty space, did not exist. With Michelson's interferometer, a beam of light was divided by a half-silvered mirror and the parts sent at right angles to one another. When brought together again, the hypothetical drag of the stationary ether due to different reference frames of the light paths should have produced interference effects, but no fringes were produced. This experiment contributed substantially to the formation of relativity theory by verifying that light traveled at the same velocity of the constant value c in all reference frames.

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