Planet Talk

Famous Astrophysicists

Many people have contributed to our study of astronomical objects and phenomena, applying the methods and principles of other sciences, especially chemistry and physics. In this post, I will be naming a few of these famous astrophysicists and detailing their role in our understanding of the universe.

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar: An Indian-American Theoretical Physicist, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar studied stars and evolution in depth. He is best known for his discovery of the Chandrasekhar limit, which is the maximum mass of a stable white dwarf star. Along with this, he modeled massive stars and black holes, wrote a paper on stellar dynamics and Brownian motion, and studied other exciting topics, including radiative transfer and colliding gravitational waves. Chandrasekhar’s number is now used in magnetic convection to represent the ratio of the Lorentz force to the viscosity. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar left a lasting legacy, winning a Nobel Prize in physics, as well as the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Himalayan Chandra Telescope being created in honor of him. Throughout his lifetime, Chandrasekhar published around 380 papers, all insightful articles boosting our knowledge of astronomy.

Johannes Kepler: Johannes Kepler was a famous astronomer, astrologer, and mathematician born in 1571. Kepler was one of the first scientists to use physics in astronomy. He looked up to Tycho Brahe, and used Brahe’s data to discover laws of planetary motion, which are now known simply as Kepler’s Laws. These three laws, about how the planets move and orbit, have become very prevalent to astronomers in today’s day and age. Johannes Kepler has a supernova named after him, called Kepler’s Supernova, which was discovered in 1604. It is associated with the rise of Charlemagne and the birth of Jesus. In an attempt to find musical harmony in celestial objects, Kepler wrote Harmonice Mundi, a novel written entirely in Latin.

Edwin Hubble: Edwin Hubble conducted research at and graduated from the University of Chicago. There, he worked closely with Millikan, who conducted the oil drop experiment to learn more about atoms. Hubble had access to the Mount Wilson Telescope in California, which is the most powerful in the world. Hubble played a crucial role in establishing the fields of extragalactic astronomy and observational cosmology, classifying objects seen as “nebulae” as galaxies beyond the Milky Way. Most notably, the Hubble Telescope, named after Edwin Hubble, is one of the world’s most revolutionary telescopes, a predecessor of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Stephen Hawking: Stephen Hawking was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author. He was also the director of research at Cambridge, specifically working in the field of Theoretical Cosmology there. Hawking made large contributions to the understanding of gravity, black holes, and cosmology, resulting in the creation of the singularity theorems in the 1960s. Stephen Hawking discovered that black holes have entropy and finite temperature and radiate a form of thermal radiation, thus named Hawking radiation. He is most rewarded for his combination of general relativity, an Einsteinian gravity used to explain the formation and evolution of black holes, with quantum mechanics. In his singularity theorems, Hawking postulated that general relativity could be used up to the singularity, but to discover that more deeply, quantum mechanics would be required. Hawking’s work greatly contributed to astrophysics, and scientists are forever grateful.

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