Dig deep into the annals of astronomy and you will find with great difficulty the name of a 19th century astronomer Henriette Swan Leavitt, whose innovative idea of a particular star shape led to the cosmic measure for measuring the Universe.
In 1923, Edwin Hubble used Levitt's research to find that the faint, indistinct spot of light, known as Andromeda, was not part of the Milky Way, as scientists of that time always believed. It turned out that it was a whole separate galaxy. The universe suddenly began to take up much more space.
Hubble discovered a type of star known as Cepheid, which blinks and disappears quite predictably, resembling an earth beacon.
But this discovery was due to Leavitt working far away at the Harvard Observatory College more than a decade before Hubble, who realized that the cycle of Cepheids was related to its own brightness. This understanding helped scientists to get an important and reliable tool for measuring space distances, since Cepheid is somewhat similar to a 100-watt light bulb, only its dimmer is much further.
Levitt made her discovery through photographs of the Small Magellanic Cloud, although her work was published under the title of her boss, Edward Pickering, and the papers were presented in 2004 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. “Her appointment at the time was cataloging the stars, not their research. She made this famous and very valuable discovery on her own initiative, ”wrote Pangratios Papacosta, a professor of physics at Columbia College in Chicago.
“Hubble’s crushing confession about Henrietta Leavitt is an example of continued denial and lack of professional and public recognition that Henriette Levitt had to remain in the dark, despite her opening landmark,” added Papacosta.
“Space observation is greatly enhanced due to its discovery, but the space telescope is not named after Levitt and the US postage stamp was issued not in its honor,” he wrote.
More than a century after her pioneering work, Leavitt will be recognized as the highest post in the United States. President Obama will be completing his weekly visit as a guest representative at Science Presents DNews at 9 pm Eastern Pacific time, talking about Levitt's contribution.