By Lauren Gunderson
Produced by Valerie Russell | Directed by Valerie Russell
The true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, Silent Sky explores a woman’s place in society during a time of immense scientific discoveries, when women’s ideas were dismissed until men claimed credit for them. Social progress, like scientific progress, can be hard to see when one is trapped among earthly complications. Henrietta Leavitt and her female peers believe in both, and their dedication changed the way we understand both the heavens and Earth.
Silent Sky is the poignant tale of a woman’s dedication to the stars and the human touch that makes life under the cast sky beautiful and timeless. It is a beautiful and insightful piece of theatre.
Performances at the Firehall Theatre, Cobourg
Silent Sky is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York.
March 22, 23, 29, 30, April 4, 5, 6, 7, 2019, at 8:00 pm
March 24, 31, 2019, at 2:00 pm.
Tickets $22 (+ handling)
Call 905-372-2210 or 1-855-372-2210 or purchase online at www.concerthallatvictoriahall.com
For a long time, it was thought that the Milky Way Galaxy was the full extent of the universe. The majority of astronomers in the early 1900s agreed that there was nothing outside of the Milky Way. Henrietta Swan Leavitt’s work as a “computer” at the Harvard Observatory was directly responsible for changing this viewpoint.
She was assigned to study variable stars, those whose luminosity (brightness) varied over time but whose exact workings were poorly understood. In her studies she found thousands of variable stars in the Magellanic Clouds and she noticed a pattern, namely that the brighter a variable star was, the longer its took to transition from maximum to minimum brightness and back.Using the assumption that these stars were all at a similar distance from Earth in the Magellanic Cloud, she calculated the period-luminosity relationship of the stars. This relationship enabled Cepheids to be used as “standard candles” – distance markers.
In the 1920s astronomer Edwin Hubble detected Cepheid variables in Andromeda and was able to conclude that it was another galaxy rather than a part of the Milky Way, placing us in just one of hundreds of billions of galaxies. Henrietta Leavitt’s discovery turned astronomy on its head and for the first time enabled astronomers to begin working out just where we fit into the universe.