Harlow Shapley November 1885 - October 1972 Major Discovery: Milky Way Galaxy exponentially larger than previously believed Focus on globular clusters : gigantic spheroidal agglomerations of stars that orbit the Milky Way
November 1885 - October 1972
Major Discovery: Milky Way Galaxy exponentially larger than previously believed
Before, the Milky Way was believed to have a diameter of 15 - 20,000 light years
Now, Shapley concluded that its diameter was, in fact, nearly 300,000 light years with the Sun located near the edge
Error: although the Milky Way is much larger than anyone imagined, his estimate of its diameter was too large by an approximate factor of 3.
Date: April 26th, 1920
Players: Heber D. Curtis vs. Harlow Shapley
Location: National Academy of Sciences in Washington
Controversy: the nature of spiral nebulae and galaxies; the size of the universe
Shapley (left) : Sun not at center of Galaxy
Globular clusters and spiral nebulae are within the Milky Way
Curtis (right) : Sun near the center of our Galaxy
Belief in ‘external universes’ or the island universe hypothesis
Shortly after the famed Debate, Harlow Shapley has the opportunity to replace Edward Charles Pickering as director of Harvard College Observatory. He works there from 1921 - 1952.
During this part of his career, he hires Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin -- a woman who holds the distinguished honor of being the first person to earn a doctorate at Harvard University in the field of Astronomy.