to the moon

Dilhan Eryurt: Why we owe so much to the astrophysicist

The work of the late Turkish astrophysicist was vital to landing humans on the Moon.

A stylized version of an early version of the Google Doodle of Dilhan Eryurt

On July 20, 1969, humanity first landed on the Moon. But that small step for mankind didn't just rely on the two men wearing space boots on the Moon. Instead, it was the contributions of scientists on Earth that helped send them there.

For the 51st anniversary of Apollo, Google commemorated the work of late Turkish astrophysicist Dilhan Eryurt with a Google Doodle. It was the research of Eryurt that contributed to the technology behind the Moon landing.

She was born on November 29, 1926, in Izmir, Turkey, and pursued her passion for astronomy at Istanbul University where she received a degree in mathematics and astrophysics.

Eryurt was a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland from 1961 to 1973, where she specialized in the science of main sequence stars like our own Sun. During her time at NASA, Eryurt helped uncover the mechanism of the Sun and how it evolved over the years.

Dilhan Eryurt

WIkimedia Commons

Based on her research, astronomers now know that the Sun started off brighter and hotter when it first formed 4.5 billion years ago, and continued to cool down. That breakthrough in heliophysics helped NASA engineers in developing the technology for the rockets that launched humans to the Moon.

The Google Doodle features Eryurt staring out onto stars and planets, with a Saturn V rocket in the background that was used for Apollo.


In 1969, Eryurt was awarded the Apollo Achievement Award for her contribution to the Apollo 11 mission.

Following her time at NASA, Eryurt briefly moved to the University of California to complete her research on main sequence stars before moving back to Turkey. By 1973, Eryurt had established a department of astrophysics at Ankara's Middle East Technical University.

The astrophysicist was also a member of a group of scientists who called for the construction of the first national observatory in Turkey.

Eryurt died in September, 2012 in the city of Ankara, Turkey at the age of 85.