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As an astronomer at Mount Wilson Observatory in Los Angeles, Hubble had access to the most cutting-edge equipment of the day, particularly the inch 2. The telescope, built in , was the largest on Earth until Since , Hubble had been discovering new galaxies from the observatory, according to the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Book Review: The Day We Found the Universe by Marcia Bartusiak

In , he developed a method of measuring the distance between a far-flung galaxy and the Milky Way, which involved calculating the actual brightness of stars in another galaxy and then comparing that value with how bright they appeared from Earth. This work led to another revelation. According to the Carnegie Institution, Hubble also knew about the work of an earlier astronomer, Vesto Melvin Slipher, who had figured out that he could measure how fast a galaxy was moving toward or away from the Milky Way by looking for changes in the wavelengths of light coming from that galaxy.

The measurement is called the Doppler shift, and the principle is the same as the pitch change that seems to happen as an ambulance siren approaches, blares by, and recedes, except with light instead of sound.


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In the case of light, wavelengths emitted by an object moving toward a stationary observer appear more frequent, and thus bluer. Wavelengths emitted by an receding object appear less frequent, and thus redder. Armed with information about the distance of other galaxies and their Doppler shift, Hubble and his colleagues published a paper in that would change astronomy.

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On Jan. What Hubble and his co-authors had observed was the very expansion of the universe itself. To use a famous analogy , the galaxies are like raisins in the bread dough of the universe. She teaches in the graduate program in science writing at MIT and lives in Sudbury, Massachusetts, with her husband.

The Day Edwin Hubble Realized Our Universe Was Expanding

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