Harvard University Clock Tower - the school at which Leavitt did her research.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of Corel Photography
Henrietta Swan Leavitt
Henrietta Swan Leavitt was born in Massachusetts in 1868. She became interested in astronomy in college. Unfortunately, she got sick after her graduation from college. She did recover from her sickness, though it did leave her almost completely deaf. But she hadn't forgotten astronomy!
Henrietta started working at Harvard's Observatory for 30 cents an hour. She observed stars and watched how variable stars changed in brightness. Henrietta is known for her discovery of a type of variable stars named cepheid variables. Cepheid variables are stars that go through cycles of brightness and darkness. Henrietta found that when observing a cepheid variable, she could relate the length of the brightness cycle to the size of the star. With this discovery, she was able to determine the distances between stars and the Earth.
She died of cancer in 1921 at age fifty-three. Her name was given to a crater of the moon to honor deaf men and women who have worked as astronomers.
You might also be interested in:
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take a trip to an observatory to use the telescope? In February 2006, astronomer Travis Metcalfe was granted 7 nights of observing time on one of the telescopes...more
I'm Travis Metcalfe, an astronomer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. I made this short video for anyone who's ever wondered what it's like to take a trip to the observatory...more
It's important in their work for scientists to know if two sets of data (or variables) are related to each other. For example, you might wonder if the amount of time a student spends reading the Windows...more
Hipparchus was a Greek astronomer who lived between 190-120 B.C. He created the first accurate star map and kept a catalogue of over 850 stars with their relative brightnesses. He also developed the system...more
James Adamson is an American astronaut who was born in New York in 1946. He attended military school from 1965-1969 and studied engineering. From 1969-1980 he stayed in the Army as an aviator and professor....more
Tom Akers is an American astronaut who was born on May 20, 1951 in Missouri. Before he was an astronaut, Akers was a park ranger, teacher, and Air Force pilot. He has flown 25 different types of aircraft....more
Joseph Allen is an American astronaut who was born on June 27, 1937 in Indiana. Before he became an astronaut, Allen was a physicist who taught at the University of Washington. Allen became an astronaut...more
Jim Bagian is an American astronaut who was born on February 22, 1952 in Pennsylvania. Before he became an astronaut, Bagian was an engineer and a medical doctor. Bagian became an astronaut in 1980. He...more