Little Bits of History

Not So Special

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 30, 2012
Edwin Hubble

Edwin Hubble

December 30, 1924: Edwin Hubble announces there are other galaxies in the universe. Copernicus stated the solar system was heliocentric, but not very loudly. Galileo backed him up with a louder voice and since that would dispute some Biblical scripture, he was forced to recant and punished for his heresy. Regardless of the Pope’s conviction, the solar system is heliocentric and the universe does not revolve around the Earth. Not only are we not the center of everything, we aren’t even a very important part of everything that is, except to ourselves, of course. Telescopes gave scientists better and better images of what was beyond naked eye vision out there in deep space.

Edwin Hubble was born in Missouri in 1889. The family moved to Chicago in 1898. Hubble was an athlete and while in high school, he broke the state record for the high jump. He went the University of Chicago and played basketball for them. He went on to win a Rhodes scholarship and at Oxford he studied law. He eventually earned a Ph.D. in astronomy, but he still practiced law in Kentucky for a time. He rose to rank of major while serving in the US Army during World War I. After the war, bored with law, he went back to astronomy and peering into the abyss of the night sky.

He worked with the new 100-inch telescope at Mount Wilson in Southern California and studied spiral nebulae. It was thought, at the time, that these fuzzy patches in the sky were clouds of gas or dust within our galaxy. The Milky Way was thought to contain everything in the universe (still believing we were the central focus of the entire universe in some small way) except the Magellanic Clouds. However, as Hubble studied the nebula Andromeda, he found a number of stars. Some of these were Cepheid variable stars which vary in intensity from bright to dim. Back in 1912, Henrietta Leavitt of Harvard had shown that by using these Cepheid stars, one could calculate the distance between Earth and their position.

On this date, Hubble announced that we were not the only galaxy and in fact there were many different galaxies out there. He was able to compute the distance to Andromeda as approximately 860,000 light years. The farthest stars of our own galaxy are about one-eighth of that distance. Although this was indeed a cosmic discovery, it was not front page news. Hubble went on to discover about 25 more galaxies during his life. He also employed the Doppler effect and during the 1920s was able to prove that stars were moving away from us. He also proved their red shift was proportional to the distance. Hubble died in 1953. NASA honored him by naming their space telescope after him.

The great spirals… apparently lie outside our stellar system.

The history of astronomy is a history of receding horizons.

Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.

Past time is finite, future time is infinite. – all from Edwin Hubble

Also on this day:

Once in a Blue Moon – In 1982, the only total eclipse of a blue moon in the entire century took place.
Countess Bathory – In 1610, the Blood Countess was stopped.
Ted on the Loose – In 1977, Ted Bundy once again escaped from prison.

One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on December 30, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I learned this stuff in the 1st and 2nd grade. Not special is a good title for the people in this article because they merely repeated what they had heard from others before them.

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