Who was Dilhan Eryurt? Google Doodle commemorates iconic Turkish astrophysicist

Scientist worked for Nasa in 1960s, contributing to space agency's Apollo missions

Tom Embury-Dennis
Monday 20 July 2020 09:00
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Google Doodle celebrates the life of Turkish astrophysicist Dilhan Eryurt
Google Doodle celebrates the life of Turkish astrophysicist Dilhan Eryurt

Google Doodle is celebrating the life of Dilhan Eryurt with a cartoon of the late Turkish astrophysicist.

The picture sees Eryurt, who died in 2012, staring at stars and planets, the origins of which she helped uncover for Nasa in the 1960s.

Born in western Turkey in 1926, Eryurt graduated with a degree in mathematics and astrophysics from Istanbul University shortly after the end of the Second World War, before moving to Canada in 1959 to work for the International Atomic Energy Agency.

She began working at Nasa in Washington DC two years later and stayed for 12 years, reportedly as the only female astronomer at the space agency for much of the time.

Collaborating with one of the founders of nuclear astrophysics, Alastair GW Cameron, Eryurt worked on the evolution of stars, particularly the necessary conditions required for the formation of one.

She ultimately demonstrated that, contrary to received wisdom, the sun is not warming, but is actually getting cooler and losing brightness.

Her research contributed not only to scientific knowledge, but helped Nasa engineers develop the technology required for its lunar rocket trips of the 1960s and 70s.

In 1969, she was awarded the Apollo Achievement Award for her contribution to the Apollo 11 mission's first-ever moon landing.

Eryurt later moved to the University of California, before returning to Turkey in 1973, establishing a department of astrophysics at Ankara's Middle East Technical University.

She rose to become Dean of the science literature department at the university before retiring in 1993.

Eryurt died in her home city of Ankara in 2012, aged 85.

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