In 1929, Edwin Hubble published a paper that changed our view of the universe forever.
Building on Vesto Slipher’s pioneering work here at Lowell a decade earlier, Hubble showed that galaxies are racing away from us at speeds proportional to their distance. The inescapable conclusion was that the universe is expanding.
But Hubble overestimated the speed of this expansion by almost a factor of ten. That’s like a racecar driver who thinks he’s zipping around the track at 200 mph only to discover he’s actually crawling along at only 20 mph.
How did Hubble get it so wrong? The answer is simple: he needed more and better data.
The famed astronomer had data for only two dozen galaxies. It was the most extensive collection of galaxy data available at the time. But it wasn’t enough.
Astronomers of the past were starved for data because technology limited their ability to collect and share information. When Galileo first pointed his small telescope skyward in 1609, the only way he could record and share his discoveries was through words and drawings.
Times have changed. These days, astronomers feast on data. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey, an ambitious ...