Optics. Determining the velocity of light by means of the rotating-mirror method according to Foucault and Michelson. LD Physics Leaflets P5.6.1.

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1 Optics Velocity of light Measurement according to Foucault/Michelson LD Physics Leaflets P Determining the velocity of light by means of the rotating-mirror method according to Foucault and Michelson Measuring the image shift as a function of the rotational speed of the mirror Objects of the experiment To measure the shift x of the image of the light source for a rotary mirror To measure the velocity of the rotary mirror To determine the velocity of light c from the rotational speed, the shift x and the light path s between the rotary mirror and the end mirror. Principles Measurement of the velocity of light by means of the rotary mirror method utilizes a concept first proposed by L. Foucault in 1850 and perfected by A. A. Michelson in In this method, light travels along a known path in both directions between two mirrors; the transit time required for this is initially unknown. During this time, the first mirror rotates at a known, very high frequency. Consequently, the returning light beam is incident on the rotary mirror at an altered angle, and is also reflected by this mirror. The position of the reflection is read from the scale, and this value is used to calculate the rotational angle of the mirror, and thus the transit time of the light. In the experiment setup described here, the lamp used as a light source in earlier versions has been replaced by an He-Ne laser (see Fig. 1). The light source S is placed at a distance a from the rotary mirror (1). The light reflected by this mirror is incident on lens (2), which is set up at a distance equivalent to its focal length f. This produces an image S of the light source on one of the planar end mirrors (3) set up at a distance b from the lens. The reflection of the light beams at the end mirror and their re-reflection at the rotary mirror produces an image S of the original image S at the emission aperture of the laser. When the rotary mirror turns, image S moves across the end mirror. Between the lens and the end mirror, the main beam runs parallel to the axis of the lens, because the rotary mirror is in the focal point of the lens. At the end mirror, the main beam is reflected into itself, and returns along the same path to the rotary mirror, and from there to the emission aperture of the laser. The image S is always in the same location, regardless of the position of the rotary mirror, when the mirror is stationary or turning slowly. The images S and S are generated for as long as the primary beam from the rotary mirror is within the aperture angle of the lens. Thus, when the mirror is rotating, the brightness of images S and S is greater, the larger the usable width of the lens is. A beam splitter (4) reflects a part of the returning light onto a glass scale (5). The optical path from the rotary mirror to the glass scale is also a, so that image S also appears on the glass scale. Fig. 1: Beam path for determining the velocity of light using the rotary-mirror method 1 Rotary mirror 2 Lens, f = 5 m 3 End mirror 4 Beam splitter 5 Glass scale 1105-Sel 1

2 P LD Physics Leaflets Apparatus 1 Rotary mirror with motor, for determining the velocity of light He-Ne laser, linearly polarized Front silvered mirror, 120 mm dia Lens, f = 5 m Beam splitter Holder with spring clips Glass scale Variable low-voltage transformer, 0 to 250 V Two-channel oscilloscope Semiconductor detector BNC cable, 1 m Straight, BNC Stand rod, 100 cm Stand rod, 47 cm Stand rod, 25 cm Stand base (large), V-shape Stand bases (small), V-shape Saddle base Leybold multiclamps Bosshead Wooden ruler, 1 m In the time t which the light requires to travel the path s = 2 (f + b) (I) from the rotary mirror to the end mirror and back, the rotary mirror rotating at a high value for turns by the measurable angle = 2 t (II). This causes a shift in the position of image S on the glass scale by the amount x = 2 a (III). Thus, we may say: c = s 8 (f + b) a = (IV). t x The distances a and b cannot be set to just any values independently of each other. As the light source is sharply imaged on the end mirror, the law of imagery applies: 1 f = 1 b + 1 (V). a + f Safety note The He-Ne laser fulfills the German technical standard Safety Requirements for Teaching and Training Equipment Laser, DIN 58126, Part 6 for class 2 lasers. When the precautions described in the Instruction Sheet are observed, experimenting with the He-Ne laser is not dangerous. Never look directly into the direct or reflected laser beam. Do not exceed the glare limit (i.e. no observer should feel dazzled). Consequently, for the velocity of light, we ultimately obtain the relationship c = 8 (f + 2a) f (VI). x Thus, producing the greatest possible shift x requires the highest possible speed and the longest possible focal length f and distance a. The rotary mirror for determining the velocity of light (476 40) has a speed of = 450 Hz, and the lens (460 12) has a focal length f = 5 m. In principle, any value can be selected for the distance a. However, one must then be willing to accept intensity losses due to the divergence of the laser beam, as well as a more painstaking adjustment process. The arrangement shown in Fig. 1 represents a viable compromise, in which the laser and the end mirror are positioned side by side, i.e. the relation a = f + b applies. By inserting equation (V), we can calculate b = 2 f = 7.1 m and a = (1 + 2) f = 12.1 m The distance a between the laser and the rotary mirror corresponds to the overall length of the setup. Setup Adjustment of the optical components is much easier when the arrangement is set up by two persons. The beam path should be as horizontal as possible. Select an area with a flat floor surface, and clamp the rods of the optical components in the apex of the stand bases (see Fig. 2) so that they extend about 1 cm from the bottom of the stand bases and touch the floor (beam height: 15 cm). If the floor is noticeably uneven, clamp the rods in the middle strut of the stand bases, and leave some play for height correction. Check the beam height with a ruler. Laser, lens and end mirror: On the floor, mark position P 1 = 0 for the rotary mirror, P 2 = 5 m for the lens and P 3 = 12.1 m for the end mirror and laser (see Fig. 1). Mount the laser on the rod and tape a piece of white paper around the emission aperture; this will make subsequent observation of the returning laser beam much easier. Clamp the rods of the laser, the lens and the end mirror into one small stand base each. Align the rods as precisely vertical as possible using the adjusting screws on the stand bases. Set up the laser and the end mirror next to each other at P 3, with a distance of cm between midpoints (see Fig. 1 and Fig. 2). Rotary mirror: Clamp the stand rod at the apex of the stand base so that it extends about 1 cm from the bottom of the stand base and touches the floor. Attach the rotary mirror for determining light velocity to the stand rod so that the center of the mirror is on the level of the beam (see Fig. 3). Check the beam height with a ruler. Set up the rotary mirror at point P 1 and align the rotational axis of the mirror as precisely vertical as possible using the adjusting screws on the stand base. Do not insert the adjusting wrench yet. 2

3 LD Physics Leaflets P Fig. 2: Fig. 3: Setup section 1 with laser, end mirror, beam splitter and glass scale; distances between the apparatus are not drawn to scale. Setup section 2 with rotary mirror, variable low-voltage transformer and setup for frequency measurement Connect the motor of the rotary mirror to the variable low-voltage transformer and turn the adjusting knob of the transformer to 0 V. Switch on the motor and the variable low-voltage transformer. Weigh down the stand base so that it cannot slide. Slowly increase the output voltage of the variable low-voltage transformer to 240 V and check whether the stand base of the rotary mirror moves. Adjustment: Reduce the output voltage of the variable low-voltage transformer to 0 and switch this unit off. Using the adjusting wrench, turn the mirror side to the front. Switch on the laser and, by turning and moving the stand base and varying the adjusting screws, align the laser beam so that the rotary mirror is symmetrically illuminated. Using the adjusting wrench, turn the rotary mirror until the laser beam is reflected on the end mirror (initially without the lens). Use the adjusting screws on the stand base to position the reflected beam on the center of the end mirror. If necessary, carefully turn and move the stand base. Readjust the laser as necessary. Set up the lens at position P 2 so that it is perpendicular to the beam in the beam path between the rotary mirror and the end mirror (see Fig. 1). Align the lens so that the light beam passes through the center of the lens and strikes the center of the end mirror. Hold a sheet of paper between the lens and the end mirror and check whether the smallest beam diameter is at the mirror, i.e. image S is sharply focused; you may need to remove the end mirror. 3

5 LD Physics Leaflets P Evaluation From Fig. 4, we can obtain the linear relationship between the position x of image S and the motor frequency. The slope is m = m Hz. This corresponds to the ratio x = x() x(0) in equation (VI). From this, we can calculate the velocity of light as c = m s. Result Remark: The straight line drawn in the diagram is the result of a best fit. When calculating the error to obtain a best-fit line, remember that the scattering of the measured values around the line is significantly less than its measuring error. We obtain a value of 7 % as the relative error for the slope of the line. The velocity of light can be specified with the same relative error, as the other quantities from (VI) were measured with more precision. Experiment result: c = (2.8 ± 0.2) 10 8 m s Literature value: c = m s LD DIDACTIC GmbH Leyboldstrasse 1 D Hürth Phone (02233) Telefax (02233) by LD DIDACTIC GmbH Printed in the Federal Republic of Germany Technical alterations reserved

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