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Asked by Micheal

What event settled the Shapley-Curtis debate about spiral nebulae?

When Hubble identified some 'Cepheid variable' stars in the Andromeda Galaxy, it allowed him to show the distances to these stars were greater than Shapley's proposed size of our galaxy (Curtis's estimated size was smaller then Shapley's) allowing a conclusion that it was another galaxy much like our own. This proved Curtis right that there were many spiral galaxies just like our own rather then just one as Shapley hypothesised. Shapley however was later proved to be closer to the correct value for the size of our galaxy and our sun's location in our galaxy. Cepheid variable stars are used as cosmic benchmarks of galactic and extragalactic distances.

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Alexander Stronach
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