During a time in which things on Earth are, in general, extremely complicated and upsetting, it’s gratifying to remember a moment when technological advancement and human ingenuity triumphed. Monday marks the 51st anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, an event that is the subject of today’s Google doodle. The doodle honors the Turkish astrophysicist Dilhan Eryurt, who died in 2012 and who spent her career fighting to uncover new revelations in her field. The Google doodle shows Eryurt, whose specialty was stellar astrophysics, speckled with stars and gazing into the limitless night sky. In the drawing, there’s also a constellation shaped like a square root symbol to pay homage to Eryurt’s devotion to mathematics.
Eryurt was born in Izmir, Turkey in 1926 and was the daughter of Abidin Ege, a Minister of Parliament in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. After completing an extensive period of scholarship, Eryurt transitioned into working within the United States with the Soroptimist Federation of America at Indiana University. Additionally, Eryurt worked on identifying Stellar Models at the Goethe Link Observatory, and it was from this position that she transferred into becoming the only woman astronomer working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
It was at this institution that Eryurt made the discoveries that would become crucial to human history: Eryurt found out that the brightness of the Sun has not increased since the star had been formed billions of years ago. Subsequently, it became possible to understand that the Sun had been much brighter and warmer in the past. Eryurt’s revelation that the Sun was cooling was crucial to NASA’s technological development for space missions in the 1960s and ’70s, because this meant that she was able to provide NASA engineers with data for models of how the Sun impacts the lunar environment.
For her brilliant work, Eryurt was given the Apollo Achievement Award, but her name is not nearly as well known as those of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. Hopefully, today’s Google doodle will begin to change that.