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Guillermo Haro spotted supernovae and flare stars in the night sky

The Mexican astronomer was best known for identifying the mysterious jets of gas in the Orion nebula.

Wednesday’s Google Doodle features Mexican astronomer Guillermo Haro.
Umair Irfan is a correspondent at Vox writing about climate change, Covid-19, and energy policy. Irfan is also a regular contributor to the radio program Science Friday. Prior to Vox, he was a reporter for ClimateWire at E&E News.

Guillermo Haro, who was the first to discover several nebulae, flare stars, and supernovae in the cosmos, is honored in today’s Google Doodle on what would have been his 105th birthday.

From his perch at the Tonantzintla Observatory in Puebla, Mexico, he observed jets of gases ejected at hundreds of miles per second from newborn stars forming clouds in space. These formations are now known as Herbig-Haro objects; Haro shares credit with George Herbig, who identified them on his own.

The green-blue clouds above and below the stars in this photo are examples of Herbig-Haro objects.

Haro also scoured the sky around the Orion Nebula in the Orion constellation, finding red and blue flare stars, small stars that surge unpredictably with brightness. He identified the Haro-Chavira Comet as well.

In the mid 20th century, he earned fame for his observations and became Mexico’s foremost astronomer. Mexican writer Alfonso Reyes dubbed Haro “the priest of the telescope.”

While he continued searching for stars until the end of his life, Haro didn’t always want to be an astronomer.

Born in Mexico’s capital on March 21, 1913, during the Mexican Revolution, Haro studied philosophy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and intended to go into law. But astronomer Luis Enrique Erro lured him toward the stars, and Haro started working as Erro’s assistant at the Tonantzintla Observatory, pictured below, in 1942.

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He soon went on to train at observatories in the United States, including the Harvard College Observatory and the Case Institute of Technology, but he returned to Tonantzintla in 1945 to run the facility’s Schmidt camera telescope.

He met his wife, the preeminent Mexican journalist Elena Poniatowska, while working there. Poniatowska said in 2013 that she was drawn to his intellect. “For me, it was very important that a man of this caliber and this intelligence would notice me,” she said. “He flattered me very much.”

He also had a distinct sense of irony and sense of humor, she noted, and was very serious about his work.

Elena Poniatowska/

“Guillermo hated the UFOs and the aliens, that’s why he got upset with me when I felt affinity and empathy with the ET,” she told reporters in 2014, referring to the Steven Spielberg movie. Poniatowska also wrote an award-winning biography of her husband.

Haro became the first Mexican elected to the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1959. He was one of the founders of the Mexican Academy of Sciences and served as its first president in 1960. He received the Lomonosov Medal from the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1986. Haro also established the National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics, and Electronics to help support science students.

For his work, he’s also been honored with a street in Mexico City and an observatory in the Mexican state of Sonora bearing his name.

Haro died on April 26, 1988.

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