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May 4, 2020 - Seeing Stars as They Are

Seeing Stars as They Are  Born 120 years ago this week, Cecilia Payne studied mathematics at Cambridge, and in 1925 became the first person to earn a Ph.D. in astronomy from Radcliffe College (now part of Harvard). At the time, it was thought the Sun contained the same proportion of elements as the Earth. Payne showed that the Sun, and thus, most stars (and the galaxies they form, like the Large Magellanic Cloud, above) are composed mostly of hydrogen and helium, making those elements the most abundant ones in the universe, and profoundly changing our understanding of the cosmos. Her discovery is often overlooked because the prominent astronomer Henry Norris Russell published similar results several years later. Payne married astronomer Sergei Gaposchkin in 1934; she died in 1979.

Image credit: Zdeněk Bardon / ESO

Weekly Calendar

May 4 - 10, 2020

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

 

Monday 4

Mercury in superior conjunction

1967: Lunar Orbiter IV launched
1989: STS-30 Atlantis launched, releases Magellan spacecraft
2002: Aqua satellite launched

Tuesday 5

Cinco de Mayo

Moon at perigee
Eta Aquarid meteor shower

1961: Freedom 7 suborbital flight; Alan Shepard is first American in space

Wednesday 6

Eta Aquarid meteor shower

1968: Neil Armstrong ejects safely from Lunar Landing Research Vehicle before it crashes
1975: NASA announces that Canada will build the Shuttle robot arm

Thursday 7

Full Moon 6:45 AM ET

1992: STS-49 Endeavour launched

Friday 8

Saturday 9

2003: Hayabusa launched, first mission to retrieve a sample from an asteroid

Sunday 10

Mother's Day

1900: Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin born
1967:
M2-F2 lifting body crash-lands; footage later becomes opening scene of “The Six Million Dollar Man”

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.