Edwin Powell Hubble was an American astronomer. He played a crucial role in establishing the field of extra galactic astronomy and observational cosmology. Scientists regarded him as one of the most important astronomers of all time.

Edwin Hubble Early Life

  • Edwin Hubble was born to Virginia Lee Hubble and John Powell Hubble, an insurance executive, in Marshfield, Missouri, and moved to Wheaton, Illinois, in 1900.
  • He was a gifted athlete, playing baseball, football, basketball, and running track in both high school and college.
  • At university too, Edwin was an accomplished sportsman playing for the University of Chicago basketball team. He won a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford where he studied law. 
  • It was only some time after he returned to the US that he decided his future lay in astronomy.

Edwin Hubble Contribution to Astronomy 

  • In 1919, George Ellery Hale, the founder and director of the Mount Wilson Observatory offered him a staff position.
  • At that time, the prevailing view of the cosmos was that the universe consisted entirely of the Milky Way Galaxy. 
  • His observations, made in 1924, proved conclusively that these nebulae were much too distant to be part of the Milky Way and were, in fact, entire galaxies outside our own.
Edwin Hubble
Edwin Hubble
  • Hubble’s findings fundamentally changed the scientific view of the universe. Supporters state that Hubble’s discovery of nebulae outside of our galaxy helped pave the way for future astronomers.

Edwin Hubble Expanding Universe Theory

  • In 1924, Hubble measured the distance to the Andromeda nebula, a faint patch of light with about the same apparent diameter as the moon, and showed it was about a hundred thousand times as far away as the nearest stars. 
  • It had to be a separate galaxy, comparable in size to our own Milky Way but much further away. 
  • Hubble also devised the most commonly used system for classifying galaxies, grouping them according to their appearance in photographic images. He arranged the different groups of galaxies in what became known as the Hubble sequence.
  • Hubble was able to measure the distances to only a handful of other galaxies, but he realised that as a rough guide, he could take their apparent brightness as an indication of their distance. 
  • Einstein apparently once visited Hubble and tried to convince him that the universe was expanding. 
  • In December 1941, Hubble reported to the American Association for the Advancement of Science that results from a six-year survey with the Mt. Wilson telescope did not support the expanding universe theory.
  • And so the modern science of cosmology was born. Hubble made his great discoveries on the best telescope in the world at that time — the 100-inch telescope on Mount Wilson in southern California. 

Edwin Hubble Later Life and Death

  • Hubble also worked as a civilian for US Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland during World War II.  He directed a large volume of research in exterior ballistics which increased the effective firepower of bombs and projectiles.
  • Hubble had a heart attack in July 1949 while on vacation in Colorado. He was taken care of by his wife and continued on a modified diet and work schedule. 
  • He died of cerebral thrombosis (a spontaneous blood clot in his brain) on September 28, 1953, in San Marino, California. No funeral was held for him, and his wife never revealed his burial site.

Edwin Hubble Legacy

  • Today his name is carried by the best telescope we have, not on Earth, but a satellite observatory orbiting our planet. 
  • The Hubble Space Telescope is continuing the work begun by Hubble himself to map our universe, and producing the most remarkable images of distant galaxies ever seen, many of which are available via the World Wide Web.

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