Free from a need to conform to scientific naming conventions, the names evidence hero-worship, sycophancy, avarice, vanity, whimsy, erudition and wit, revealing the human side of astronomers, especially where controversy has followed the christening. Murdin draws from extensive historical records to explore the debate over these names. Each age reveals its own biases and preferences in the naming process.
Originally regarded as “vermin of the skies,” asteroids are minor planets, rocky scraps left over from the formation of the larger planets, or broken fragments of worlds that have collided. Their scientific classification as “minor” planets makes them seem unimportant, but over the past decades asteroids have been acknowledged to be key players in the Solar System. This view of their starring role even alters the trajectories of spacecraft: NASA’s policy for new space missions en route to the outer planets is that they must divert to study passing asteroids whenever possible. This book provides for readers a complete tour of the fascinating world of asteroids.
Paul Murdin is a distinguished internationally known astronomer with a track record of well-written books and eloquent lectures about astronomy. He has been honored with an OBE in 1988, the Award of the Royal Astronomical Society for Services to [professional] Astronomy in 2011, the Eric Zucker Award of the Federation of Astronomical Societies for outreach to amateur astronomers, in 2012, and the name of asteroid 128562 Murdin.Educated at the universities of Oxford and Rochester, NY, Paul Murdin has worked as an astronomer in the USA, Australia, England, Scotland and in Spain, where he led the operation of the Anglo-Dutch Isaac Newton Group of telescopes in the Canary Islands. He has been a research scientist (studying supernovae, neutron stars and black holes – in 1972 Paul discovered the nature of the first black hole known in our Galaxy, Cygnus X-1) and a science administrator for the UK Government and the Royal Astronomical Society. He works at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge, England, and is Visiting Professor at John Moores University, Liverpool. He has a secondary career as a broadcaster and commentator for the BBC and CNN, as well as a lecturer and writer on astronomy, including repeat appearances on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time and at a number of literary and science festivals, like those at Hay-on-Wye and Edinburgh, and on the QE2. His most recent books include
This is the first English language presentation of this historical material. It is attractively written and it features the story of the community of scientists who created the Paris Meridian. They knew each other well – some were members of the same families, in one case of four generations. Like scientists everywhere they collaborated and formed alliances; they also split into warring factions and squabbled. They travelled to foreign countries, somehow transcending the national and political disputes, as scientists do now, their eyes fixed on ideas of accuracy, truth and objective, all enduring values – yet when the reception given to their own work was concerned some became blind to high ideals and descended into petty politics.
To establish the Paris Meridian, the scientists endured hardship, survived danger, and gloried in amazing adventures during a time of turmoil in Europe consisting of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic War between France and Spain. Some were accused of witchcraft. Some of their associates lost their heads on the guillotine. Some died of disease. Some won honor and fame. One became the Head of State in France. Some found dangerous love in foreign countries. One scientist was killed in self defence when attacked by a jealous lover, another was himself killed by a jealous lover, a third brought back a woman to France and then jilted her, whereupon she joined a convent...
The scientists worked on practical problems of interest to the government and to the people. They also worked on one of the most important intellectual problems of the time, a problem of great interest to their fellow scientists all over the world- the theory of universal gravitation. They succeeded in their intellectual work while affecting politics and the affairs of state; their endeavours have left marks on the landscape, in art, and in literature still visible today.
What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.
But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.
While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.
There is no more fascinating question than whether or not we are alone in a vast universe. Here, Paul Murdin applies the latest scientific discoveries and theories to inquire whether life exists on other planets and, if so, what forms it might take. Could there be somewhere life as advanced as here on Earth, or are we more likely to find primitive life-forms? Or are we the sole living organisms in a desolate and boundless cosmos?
Professor Murdin invites us to join him in exploring an extraordinary array of evidence to determine if there is life elsewhere in the cosmos. He examines the case for life on Mars and Europa and asks whether on Enceladus or Titan we might find the “warm little” pond that Darwin speculated was where life began here on Earth. Describing the cosmic habitats that produce the alien worlds of our solar system and others, he examines the chances of finding life and the prospects for successful communication with an extraterrestrial intelligence.
There is more than scientific interest in these views. They are also aesthetically beautiful and intriguing, and Dr. Murdin in a final chapter compares them to terrestrial landscapes in fine art.
Planetary Vistas is a science book and a travel book across the planets and moons of the Solar System for armchair space explorers who want to be amazed and informed. This book shows what future space explorers will experience, because these are the landscapes that astronauts and space tourists will see.