Monday, November 10, 2008

Today in Astronomy: Vesto Slipher

Vesto Melvin Slipher, born on November 11, 1875 (d. November 8, 1969), was an American astronomer. He spent his entire career at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he was director from 1916 to 1952. He used spectroscopy to investigate the rotation periods of planets and the composition of planetary atmospheres. In 1912, he was the first to observe the shift of spectral lines of galaxies, so he was the discoverer of galactic redshifts.

John Peacock,
head of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, states:

a very large share of the credit for the discovery of the expanding universe is due to Slipher, and yet he tends to take very much second place to Hubble in most accounts.

While it was Edwin Hubble who received all the publicity, Vesto Slipher actually made the discovery that galaxies are moving away from us. He also determined that the Andromeda Galaxy is moving towards the Milky Way!

Slipher was also responsible for hiring Clyde Tombaugh and supervised the work that led to the discovery of Pluto. His brother Earl C. Slipher was also an astronomer. The Moon crater Slipher and a crater on Mars are named in his honor.

Vesto Slipher died in Flagstaff, AZ on November 8, 1969 at the age of 93. He was one of the giants of astronomy and deserves greater recognition.


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