March 29th, 2020


Henrietta Leavitt, astronomer

Silent Sky, a play by Lauren Gunderson, performed by the Arizona Theatre Company ... is about the 20th century female astronomer Henrietta Leavitt. Back then astronomer Edward Charles Pickering took a large number of sky photographs and needed people to analyze them. He hired women, among them, astronomer Leavitt, a graduate of Radcliffe College, to catalogue the stars in his photographs. She studied stars in the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, dwarf galaxies visible from the southern hemisphere. She is best known for discovering a way to measure distances to the stars through her study of Cepheid stars. Her work led her to discover the relationship between the luminosity and period of Cepheid variables. Her discoveries were published in the Annals of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College, in which she noted that the brighter variables had the longer periods. Her discovery eventually led to the establishment of the expanding universe. The period-luminosity relationship for Cepheids is known as
Leavitt’s Law. The play presents her story.

"Copyright 2020 by R-Laurraine Tutihasi. Originally published in Purrsonal
Mewsings #71,"