Vesto Slipher

Vesto Slipher

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Vesto Melvin Slipher was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 astronomer
Astronomer
An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

. His brother Earl C. Slipher
Earl C. Slipher
Earl Charles Slipher was an American astronomer. He was the brother of astronomer Vesto Slipher.Slipher was born in Mulberry, Indiana. He first joined Lowell Observatory in 1908 and became a noted planetary astronomer, concentrating on Mars. He published Photographic History of Mars ...

 was also an astronomer and a director at the Lowell Observatory.

Slipher was born in Mulberry, Indiana
Mulberry, Indiana
Mulberry is a town in Madison Township, Clinton County, Indiana, United States. The population was 1,254 at the 2010 census. The town was named for a mulberry tree which grew at the point where it was founded.-History:...

, and completed his doctorate at Indiana University
Indiana University Bloomington
Indiana University Bloomington is a public research university located in Bloomington, Indiana, in the United States. IU Bloomington is the flagship campus of the Indiana University system. Being the flagship campus, IU Bloomington is often referred to simply as IU or Indiana...

 in 1909. He spent his entire career at Lowell Observatory
Lowell Observatory
Lowell Observatory is an astronomical observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Lowell Observatory was established in 1894, placing it among the oldest observatories in the United States, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965....

 in Flagstaff, Arizona
Flagstaff, Arizona
Flagstaff is a city located in northern Arizona, in the southwestern United States. In 2010, the city's population was 65,870. The population of the Metropolitan Statistical Area was at 134,421 in 2010. It is the county seat of Coconino County...

, where he was promoted to assistant director in 1915, acting director from 1916, and finally director from 1926 until his retirement in 1952. He used spectroscopy
Spectroscopy
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g., by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any interaction with radiative...

 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, making him the discoverer of galactic redshifts. He discovered the sodium layer
Sodium layer
Refers to a layer within the Earth's mesosphere of unbound, non-ionized atoms of sodium. The altitude of this layer is usually located between 80–105 km and has a depth of about . The sodium comes from the ablation of meteors...

 in 1929. He was responsible for hiring Clyde Tombaugh
Clyde Tombaugh
Clyde William Tombaugh was an American astronomer. Although he is best known for discovering the dwarf planet Pluto in 1930, the first object to be discovered in what would later be identified as the Kuiper Belt, Tombaugh also discovered many asteroids; he also called for serious scientific...

 and supervised the work that led to the discovery of Pluto
Pluto
Pluto, formal designation 134340 Pluto, is the second-most-massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the tenth-most-massive body observed directly orbiting the Sun...

 in 1930.

Edwin Hubble
Edwin Hubble
Edwin Powell Hubble was an American astronomer who profoundly changed the understanding of the universe by confirming the existence of galaxies other than the Milky Way - our own galaxy...

 was generally incorrectly credited with discovering the redshift of galaxies; these measurements and their significance were understood before 1917 by James Edward Keeler (Lick & Allegheny), Vesto Melvin Slipher (Lowell), and William Wallace Campbell
William Wallace Campbell
William Wallace Campbell was an American astronomer, and director of Lick Observatory from 1900 to 1930. He specialized in spectroscopy.-Biography:...

 (Lick) at other observatories.

Combining his own measurements of galaxy distances with Vesto Slipher's measurements of the redshifts associated with the galaxies, Hubble and Milton Humason discovered a rough proportionality of the objects' distances with their redshifts. This redshift-distance correlation, nowadays termed Hubble's law
Hubble's law
Hubble's law is the name for the astronomical observation in physical cosmology that: all objects observed in deep space are found to have a doppler shift observable relative velocity to Earth, and to each other; and that this doppler-shift-measured velocity, of various galaxies receding from...

, was formulated by Hubble and Humason in 1929 and became the basis for the modern model of the expanding universe.

Slipher died in Flagstaff, Arizona
Flagstaff, Arizona
Flagstaff is a city located in northern Arizona, in the southwestern United States. In 2010, the city's population was 65,870. The population of the Metropolitan Statistical Area was at 134,421 in 2010. It is the county seat of Coconino County...

 and is buried there in Citizens Cemetery.

Awards

  • Lalande Prize
    Lalande Prize
    The Lalande Prize was an award for scientific advances in astronomy, given from 1802 through 1970 by the French Academy of Sciences.The prize was named for, and endowed by, astronomer Jérôme Lalande in 1801...

     (1919)
  • Gold Medal of the Paris Academy of Sciences
    French Academy of Sciences
    The French Academy of Sciences is a learned society, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV at the suggestion of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, to encourage and protect the spirit of French scientific research...

     (1919)
  • Henry Draper Medal
    Henry Draper Medal
    The Henry Draper Medal is awarded by the United States National Academy of Sciences "for investigations in astronomical physics". Named after Henry Draper, the medal is awarded with a gift of USD $15,000...

     of the National Academy of Sciences (1932)
  • Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
    Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
    -History:In the early years, more than one medal was often awarded in a year, but by 1833 only one medal was being awarded per year. This caused a problem when Neptune was discovered in 1846, because many felt an award should jointly be made to John Couch Adams and Urbain Le Verrier...

     (1932)
  • Bruce Medal
    Bruce Medal
    The Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal is awarded every year by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for outstanding lifetime contributions to astronomy. It is named after Catherine Wolfe Bruce, an American patroness of astronomy, and was first awarded in 1898...

     (1935)
  • The crater Slipher
    Slipher (lunar crater)
    Slipher is a lunar impact crater that is located in the northern latitudes on the far side of the Moon. The crater overlies the southwestern outer rim of the much larger walled plain D'Alembert, and it occupies a portion of the interior floor of D'Alembert...

     on the Moon
    Moon
    The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

     is named after Earl and Vesto Slipher, as is the crater Slipher on Mars and the asteroid
    Asteroid
    Asteroids are a class of small Solar System bodies in orbit around the Sun. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones...

     1766 Slipher
    1766 Slipher
    1766 Slipher is the name of an asteroid which was discovered at Goethe Link Observatory near Brooklyn, Indiana by the Indiana Asteroid Program. It is named for Vesto Melvin Slipher....

    , discovered September 7, 1962, by the Indiana Asteroid Program
    Indiana Asteroid Program
    The Indiana Asteroid Program was a program of photographic asteroid observations made with a 10-inch f/6.5 Cooke triplet astrographic camera at Goethe Link Observatory near Brooklyn, Indiana. The program was initiated by Frank K. Edmondson of Indiana University in 1949 and continued until 1967...

    .

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