8th August, 2015: Our young member, Vallari Shende, will be speaking on the woman astronomer Henrietta Swan Levitt in our newly launched lecture series “Women in Astronomy”. Below is the abstract by Vallari herself.

Photos of Vallari’s Talk

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Henrietta Swan Leavitt is one of the greatest woman astronomers in the world. She worked in the Harvard College Observatory as a research assistant, and was supposed to determine a star’s magnitude.She found more than 2400 variable stars. While doing this, she made a critical observation of the Cepheid variables in the Small Magellanic Cloud. She measured the periods of the Cepheids and the relative brightness of each, and found out a relation between the period and apparent brightness for all the stars; the stars with longer periods were brighter than those with shorter periods!This was a critically important discovery in modern astrophysics; it meant that one could make an easy measurement — the pulsation period of the Cepheid — and obtain the distance, which is otherwise impossible to obtain. Harlow Shapley used it to measure the size of the Milky Way. Edwin Hubble used her work to ascertain the age of the Universe!I will talk about her and her great contributions to the field of astronomy.

Henrietta Levitt