Hidden Story about the founder of modern Astronomy: Cecilia Payne, painted by Sujata Tibrewala inspires artists and visitors at Life Force Arts

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The Human Spirit art exhibit concludes on May 12 after a successful run featuring many untold stories about the fearless human spirit brought out in the art works, like Tibrewala's art on Cecilia Payne. The show inspired artists and general public alike, and resulted in creation of other art forms including poetry.

Poet Lorraine reads her poetry on Cecilia Payne as part of Human Voices

Poetry Reading on Cecilia Payne: The explorer of the Stellar Atmosphere

The Human Art Spirit Exhibit concluded at Life Force Arts on May 12 2015 after a successful run inspiring many artists and people alike. The success of the show lies in the fact that the participating artists told the untold stories of human tenacity, endurance and superior achievement in the face of consistent hardships.

The story of Cecilia Payne is a good example. She is now considered founder of modern astronomy, yet the time she was not even awarded the Bachelor's degree at Oxford university.
However she did win a scholarship to Harvard enabling her to travel to US leaving her home country behind where he only options were to become a teacher or a receptionist.

At Harvard she got access to latest equipment and freedom to do anything. "In the beginning it was wonderful and I was studying and working on Astronomy for days and nights without a wink of sleep"; she writes in her autobiography. But soon she realized she had to sleep and fell into a pattern. It was during her Doctorate work that she discovered Sun and Stars are made of 90% Hydrogen and Helium. At the time it was thought the chemical composition of sun was similar to earth, and if earth was torched, it would radiate like Sun.

Little did people know that the reason for Sun's energy was the fission reaction where Hydrogen atoms fused into Helium atoms. This was the Sun's fuel and the reason for our life. As stars run out of fuel, the hydrogen and Helium atoms are further fused to create other heavier elements including Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Sulpher etc of which all of life is made of.

Not only she discovered the Sun's composition, her method of analyzing and arriving at these results are used even today in astronomy. Neil Degrass Tyson pays tribute to her in the new Cosmos series "Sisters of the Sun". Her thesis was "Stellar Atmospheres, A Contribution to the Observational Study of High Temperature in the Reversing Layers of Stars".[3] Astronomers Otto Struve and Velta Zebergs called it "undoubtedly the most brilliant Ph.D. thesis ever written in astronomy". (ref)

After she completed her Phd, she performed all the duties of a professor, conducting courses, leading students, yet she was always called Pickering's assistant. It took 26 years for her to become a full professor (the first woman so recognized at Harvard) and chair of the Astronomy Department and another 20 when her fellow astronomers finally appreciated her genius. In 1976, the American Astronomical Society awarded her the prestigious Henry Norris Russell Prize.

Through her hard work and passion, she paved a path for all the future astronomers by advancing human knowledge and made it possible for women to hold posts in academia . This is why she exemplifies what is good and great in the "Human Spirit".

It is then not a surprise that her story now inspires many artists , poets and visitors at Life Force Arts.

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Sujata Tiberwala
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