Henrietta Leavitt Day
What to expect
The content of Henrietta Leavitt Day brings students (Years 9-11) to an understanding of the distance scale of the universe. This learning is framed in the context of the life and work of Henrietta Leavitt and the discovery of the period-luminosity relationship.
Students learn about the history of our understanding of the cosmic distance scale beginning with an overview of the theories of Ptolemy and Copernicus, the work of Kepler and Newton, Leavitt, Hertzsprung and Hubble.
Observatories and their purposes are introduced, and in particular, Harvard Observatory where Leavitt worked alongside a team of women known as ‘the computers’
The programme is led by a cross-discipline creative team - three actors and science lead, Alice Mills (co-director of Exeter Science Centre).
Over the course of the day, students practise GCSE Maths skills - trigonometry, algebra, use of calculator, similar triangles - as they carry out calculations involving distances determined by the analysis of trigonometric parallax, and plot some of Leavitt’s original data to determine the period-luminosity relationship.
As with our Lise Meitner Day, students watch a biographical play telling of the life of Henrietta Leavitt (1868-1921) and for the final part of the day we are joined by a visiting female STEM professional who talks about her work and joins in the discussion about the future of astronomy.
- Participants, especially girls, are inspired by physics
- Consideration is given to the role of women in science, past, present and future
- Improved understanding of where the subject of physics may lead in terms of a career
- Marking the Henrietta Leavitt centenary (she died 12th December 1921).
Pilot Tour dates
- Tuesday 12th October, Launch at St Luke’s, Exeter University
- Wednesday 13th October, Park School, Barnstaple
- Thursday 14th October, Sidmouth School
- Friday 15th October, Torrington School
- Monday 18th October, Kingsbridge School
- Tuesday 19th October, Uffculme School