The Michelson interferometer was the crucial instrument for proving the non-existence of the ether. The interferometer produced an interference pattern from light being spit into two separate paths then brought together again as shown below. The light was split in half by using a piece of glass that was coated with silver, only enough to reflect half the light. When one of the mirrors is moved a half wavelength in distance, the interference pattern shifts by one fringe. By rotating the apparatus parallel to Earth's velocity through a supposed ether, the number of wavelengths in each path would change and the interference pattern would shift.
But no such change in the pattern is seen when the apparatus was rotated, which means that if there were an ether it must have zero velocity relative to the interferometer. When Michelson and Morley repeated the experiment 6 months later when Earth's velocity would have changed substantially due to rotation of the sun, again there was evidence of a moving ether. The interferometer had to be rotated very gingerly. To accomplish this, it floated on a pool of mercury.