A curious character who was arguably the most important astronomer who has ever lived or ever will live. He was a tall, handsome All-American athlete and Rhodes scholar who served in World War I. He went to Mt. Wilson (in the mountains above L.A.) to do research. By finding Cepheid variables in M31, he showed that the universe was larger than anyone expected. He also discovered that red shift correlated with distance, thus the Hubble Constant.

V. M. Slipher was actually the first to observe that almost all galaxies showed redshifts, and that the redshift seemed to be larger for more distant galaxies. Hubble went on to make quantative measurements that showed that the relation was linear, with a constant of proportionality that has come to be known as the Hubble Constant.

Edwin Powell Hubble

Edwin was the man who changed the way we see the universe. He showed that galaxies are moving away from us with a speed proportional to their distance, this meant that the Universe is expanding.

He was born in Missouri in 20 November 1889. When at High school in California he was a good pupil, and excelled in athletics, breaking the Illinois high jump. He also joined the Chicago basketball team at University. He won a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford where he studied law, though he soon grew bored of law and studied astronomy.

Hubble was more of a scientist than a mathematician, but he used both maths and science during his experiments. In the early 1920’s Hubble played a key role in establishing just what galaxies are. In 1924 he measured the distance to the Andromeda Nebula, a faint patch of light, it was a hundred thousand times further away than the nearest stars, it had to be another galaxy, about the same size as the Milky Way.

He measured the distance to a handful of other galaxies, and realized that as a rough guide, he could take their apparent brightness as an indication of their distance. The speed of which that galaxy was moving was easy to measure because of their light fading or getting brighter.

The observational data available to Hubble by 1929 was very sketchy, but he correctly divined a straight line fit between the data points showing the light (commonly know as redshift) was proportional to the distance. Since then his conclusion has been proven. Galaxies are receding from us. The theory of gravity proposed by Albert Einstein in 1915, the conclusion being that all of the Galaxies and the Universe itself had originated in the Big Bang, billions of years ago. So the modern science of cosmology began.

Edwin Hubble died at the age of 64, on the 28 September 1953, San Mario, California. Today his name has been given to the best telescope we have, the Hubble Telescope, which is orbiting around our planet. It is continuing Hubble’s work and mapping our Universe and giving us incredible pictures of distant galaxies.

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