Category Archives for "Science"
In the late 19th century Harvard University was the first to take advantage of the growing numbers of educated women, employing a group at the Harvard College Observatory. Known as “computers”, they charted the position and brightness of stars on a daily basis by applying mathematical formulae to the observations of their male colleagues who watched the sky.
These spectra resemble long rainbow-coloured strips (rendered in black and white on the plates’ photographic emulsion) interspersed with numerous dark lines. Scientists would come to understand that the gaps in a spectrum are due to the absorption of light by the atoms of chemical elements that compose a star’s outer layers.
The ability to divine a star’s constituents from its spectrum “made the chemist’s arms millions of miles long”.
Stellar spectroscopy would also reveal other physical attributes of stars such as their temperature, eventually giving rise to the new field of astrophysics.