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Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

“The Most Brilliant Ph.D Thesis Ever Written in Astronomy”


I have reached a height that I should never, in my wildest dreams, have predicted 50 years ago. It has been a case of survival, not of the fittest, but of the most doggedly persistent. I was not consciously aiming at the point I finally reached. I simply went on plodding, rewarded by the beauty of the scenery, toward an unexpected goal.


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Dr. Payne-Gaposchkin found that helium and particularly hydrogen were vastly more abundant (for hydrogen, by a factor of about one million). Thus, her thesis established that hydrogen was the overwhelming constituent of the stars, and accordingly was the most abundant element in the Universe.


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The Earth is an island in the Universe where life has developed and flourished. The origins and fate of life on Earth are intimately connected to the way the Earth responds to the Sun's variations.

Understanding the Sun, Heliosphere, and Planetary Environments as a single connected system is the goal of the Science Mission Directorate's Heliophysics Research Program.


Heliophysics System Observatory.jpg


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