Picture this: it’s 1893, and you’re a woman working at the Harvard College Observatory. You have a fascination with the luminosity of Cepheid variable stars. The only issue is that you’re a woman and it’s 1893, so you aren’t allowed to operate a telescope. This was the reality for Henrietta Swan Leavitt, but she didn’t let her difficult situation get in the way of her studies. She looked at the plates of 1,777 variable stars, identified them, and measured their brightness. This led her to discover the relation between the luminosity and the period of Cepheid variable stars. Her research has enabled astronomers to measure the distance between Earth and faraway galaxies, and Edwin Hubble used her research to determine that the universe is expanding. Leavitt also developed and refined the Harvard standard for photographic measurements. Cheers to ingenuity in the face of adversity!
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