Astronomy Star

Hubble continued his work in the 1930s, confirming his redshift findings and extending them to galaxies farther and farther away from Earth. Wanting to study galaxies even fainter than those that the Hooker Telescope could reveal, he helped George Ellery Hale set up Hale's new observatory on Mount Palomar and greatly looked forward to being able to use the 200-inch (5.1-m) telescope being built there.

By the end of the decade, Hubble was famous. He had won virtually every award in astronomy, including the Bruce Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (1938), the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute (1939), and the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1940). His fame, furthermore, extended well beyond the astronomical community. For instance, one of several popular books he wrote about astronomy, The Realm of the Nebulae, became a best seller when it was published in 1936.

With his well-tailored clothes, British accent, and pipe, Edwin Hubble was the perfect picture of a distinguished scientist, and people were eager to meet him. He and his wife, Grace, whom he had married in 1924, attended many Hollywood parties in the 1930s and 1940s and became friends with film personalities such as Charlie Chaplin. Donald Osterbrock and his coauthors wrote that Hubble's "compelling personality seemed less like those of other astronomers than like those of the movie stars and writers who became his friends in the later years of his life."

Hubble took a break from his astronomical work during World War II, just as he had in World War I. This time he worked at the U.S. Army's Ballistics Research Laboratory at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, calculating the flight paths of artillery shells. After the war, when the 200-inch (5.1-m) Hale Telescope finally went into operation on Mount Palomar in 1948, Hubble was the first astronomer allowed to use it. Sadly, he was not able to work with it for long. Hubble died of a stroke at age 63 in San Marino, California, on September 28, 1953.

Just as George Ellery Hale had left a legacy of new telescopes with unimaginable power, Edwin Hubble left a heritage of puzzles for people using those telescopes to explore. With his demonstration of the expanding universe, Hubble founded a new field of astronomy: observational cosmology. Before his time, cosmology—the study of the origin, evolution, and structure of the universe—had been more the province of theologians and philosophers than of scientists. Hubble, however, showed that conclusions about these matters could be drawn from and tested by observable physical facts. As Donald Osterbrock and his coauthors wrote in Scientific American, "Hubble's energetic drive, keen intellect and supple communication skills enabled him to seize the problem of the construction of the universe and make it peculiarly his own."

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Telescopes Mastery

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