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Monday, August 14, 2017


Newton composed his "Opticks", which he published in 1704, he addressed the question of speed and wrote as follows:

[Light is propogated from luminous bodies in Time, and speeds about seven or eight minutes of an hour in passing from Sun to Earth.

This was observed first by Roemer, and then by others, by means of eclipses of satellites of Jupiter. For these eclipses, when the Earth is between the Sun and Jupiter, happen about seven or eight minutes sooner than they ought to do by the tables, and when the Earth is beyond the Sun they happen seven or eight minutes later than they ought  to do; The reason being, that the lights of satellites has farther to go in the latter case than in the former by diameter of earths orbit. ]

Newton is referring to Olaus Roemers calculations of 1676.

The Astronomers of seventeenth century had studied 'IO' (satellie of Jupiter) ever since Galileo discovered the Moons of Jupiter in 1610. They noted the eclipses and sought to predict their recurrence. But the eclipses -as

observed on Earth - did not recur perfectly periodical. If one used observations made when the Earth was nearest to Jupiter to predict when eclipses will terminate when the earth is farthest from Jupiter (about half a year

later), then the eclipses actually seem to terminate later than caluclated. The delay reasoned Roemer, is due to travel time for light to cross Earth's Orbit.

Newton gives the Time for Light to travel from Sun to Earth as 7 or 8 minutes. Let us average and take 15 minutes as the time for light to cross diameter of Earth's Orbit.

Already in Newton's day, the diameter of Earth's orbit was known to be 3 x 1011 meters.

Speed of Light in Vacuum = Diameter of Earth's Orbit / Apparent delay in eclipse termination
                                           = 3x10¹¹/900 Sec = 3x10⁸ m/sec