Life History

Edwin Hubble: The Life and Legacy of Edwin Hubble

Edwin Hubble: Edwin Hubble was a man who changed our perspective on the universe. In 1929, he showed that galaxies are moving away from us with a speed proportional to their distance. The clarification is basic, however progressive: the universe is expanding.

Hubble was born in Missouri in 1889. His family moved to Chicago in 1898, where at High School he was a promising, however not remarkable, student. 

Edwin Hubble: A Pioneer of Modern Astronomy

He was increasingly surprising for his athletic capacity, breaking the Illinois State high hop record. At university too, Edwin was an accomplished sportsman playing for the University of Chicago basketball team. He won a Rhodes grant to Oxford where he examined the law. It was only some time after he returned to the US that he decided his future lay in astronomy.

In the mid-1920s, Hubble assumed a key job in building up exactly what systems are. It was realized that some winding nebulae (fluffy billows of light on the night sky) contained individual stars, yet there was no agreement with respect to whether these were generally little accumulations of stars inside our own system, the ‘Smooth Way’ that stretches directly over the sky, or whether these could be independent cosmic systems, or ‘Island universes’, as large as our own galaxy but much further away.

In 1924, Hubble estimated the separation to the Andromeda cloud, a blackout fix of light with about the equivalent evident diametre as the moon, and demonstrated it was about a hundred thousand times as far away as the nearest stars. It had to be a separate galaxy, comparable in size to our own Milky Way but much further away.

Hubble had the option to gauge the separations to just a bunch of different worlds, yet he understood that as a harsh guide, he could accept their obvious brilliance as an indication of their distance.

The speed with which a galaxy was moving towards or away from us was relatively easy to measure due to the Doppler shift of their light. Just as a sound of a racing car becomes lower as it speeds away from us so the light from a galaxy becomes redder.

Though our ears can hear the change of pitch of the racing car engine, our eyes cannot detect the tiny red-shift of the light, but with a sensitive spectrograph, Hubble could determine the redshift of light from distant galaxies.

Edwin Hubble-Biography

The observational information accessible to Hubble by 1929 was scrappy, yet whether guided by motivated impulse or incredible favorable luck, he effectively divined a straight line fit between the data points showing that the redshift was proportional to the distance.

Since at that point, much-improved information has demonstrated the decision to be a sound one. Galaxies are receding from us, and one another, as the universe expands. Within General Relativity, the theory of gravity proposed by Albert Einstein in 1915, the inescapable conclusion was that all the galaxies, and the whole Universe, had originated in a Big Bang, thousands of millions of years in the past. And so the modern science of cosmology was born.

 Hubble made his great discoveries on the best telescope in the world at that time — the 100-inch telescope on Mount Wilson in southern California. Today his name is carried by the best telescope we have, not on Earth, but a satellite observatory orbiting our planet.

The Hubble Space Telescope is continuing the work begun by Hubble himself to map our universe, and producing the most remarkable Images of distant galaxies ever seen, many of which are available via the World Wide Web.

He died of cerebral thrombosis on September 28, 1953, in San Marino, California. His wife, Grace, did not have a funeral for him and never revealed what was done with his body. It was apparently Hubble’s wish to have no funeral service and be buried in an unmarked grave, or that he wanted to be cremated.

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