Investigating the Origin of the Asteroids and Early Findings on Vesta: Historical Studies in Asteroid Research

Springer
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This book assesses the origin of asteroids by analyzing the discovery of Vesta in 1807. Wilhelm Olbers, who discovered Vesta, suggested that the asteroids were the result of a primordial planet’s explosion. Cunningham studies that idea in detail through the writings of Sir David Brewster in Scotland, the era's most prolific writer about the asteroids. He also examines the link between meteorites and asteroids, revealing a synergy between Ernst Chladni, Romantic symbolism, and the music of the spheres.

Vesta was a lightning rod for controversy throughout the nineteenth century with observers arguing over its size and color, and the astounding notion that it was self-luminous. It was also a major force for change, as new methods in the field of celestial mechanics were developed to study the orbital perturbations it is subject to. A large selection of private correspondence and scientific papers complete the first comprehensive historical study of Vesta ever published.

With a synoptic look at the four asteroids, Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta, Cunningham provides a valuable resource on asteroid origins and explains how they were integrated into the newly revealed solar system of the early nineteenth century.

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About the author

Clifford J. Cunningham did his Ph.D. work in the history of astronomy at James Cook University and the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, and he is affiliated with the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand. He has written or edited 13 books on the history of astronomy, and his papers have been published in many major journals, including Annals of Science, Journal for the History of Astronomy, Culture & Cosmos, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, Studia Etymologica Cracoviensia, The Asian Journal of Physics and The Milton Quarterly. Asteroid (4276) was named Clifford in his honor by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Springer
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Published on
Sep 20, 2017
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Pages
399
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ISBN
9783319581187
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Astronomy
Science / Earth Sciences / Geology
Science / History
Science / Physics / Astrophysics
Science / Physics / General
Technology & Engineering / Aeronautics & Astronautics
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Based on extensive primary sources, many never previously translated into English, this is the definitive account of the origins of Ceres as it went from being classified as a new planet to reclassification as the first of a previously unknown group of celestial objects. Cunningham opens this critical moment of astronomical discovery to full modern analysis for the first time. This book includes all the voluminous correspondence, translated into English, between the astronomers of Europe about the startling discovery of Ceres by Piazzi in 1801. It covers the period up to March 1802, at which time Pallas was discovered. Also included are Piazzi’s two monographs about Ceres, and the sections of two books dealing with Ceres, one by Johann Bode, the other by Johann Schroeter. The origin of the word ‘asteroid’ is explained, along with several chapters on the antecedents of the story going back to ancient Greek times. The formulation of Bode’s Law is given, as are the details on the efforts of Baron von Zach to organize a search for the supposed missing planet between Mars and Jupiter. Examples of verse created to commemorate the great discovery are included in this first volume. The author, who has a PhD in the History of Astronomy, is a dedicated scholar of the story of asteroids and his research on the discovery of Ceres is comprehensive and fully sourced. The discovery came at a time when rival astronomers were in hot competition with each other, and when the true nature of these celestial bodies was not yet known. With astronomers in France, Italy and beyond vying to understand and receive credit for the new class of astral bodies, drama was not in short supply--nor were scientific advances.
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