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Interstellar Matters: Essays on Curiosity and Astronomical Discovery

Overview

In this provocative book, radio astronomer and author Gerrit L. Verschuur describes the phenomena of scientific curiosity and discovery by following the exciting story of interstellar matter. The discovery of "stuff between the stars" was the result of decades of work by hundreds of astronomers, and the evolving recognition of its existence has profoundly changed the way we view the Universe. Verschuur begins with E.E. Barnard, who puzzled for a quarter century over the interpretation of photographs of dark ...

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Paperback (Softcover reprint of the original 1st ed. 1989)
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Overview

In this provocative book, radio astronomer and author Gerrit L. Verschuur describes the phenomena of scientific curiosity and discovery by following the exciting story of interstellar matter. The discovery of "stuff between the stars" was the result of decades of work by hundreds of astronomers, and the evolving recognition of its existence has profoundly changed the way we view the Universe. Verschuur begins with E.E. Barnard, who puzzled for a quarter century over the interpretation of photographs of dark patches between the stars. Verschuur then traces the tortuous path to acceptance of the existence of interstellar matter. He shares with us the thrill of discovery that motivates astronomers, the use of metaphors and modeling by scientist, and other tricks of the astronomical trade. Finally, we learn about the modern study of interstellar matter: the discovery of complex organic molecules between the stars and how they may have seeded the early earth with the precursors for life, new insights into star formation, the structure of the Milky Way and the elusive interstellar magnetic field. More than a history, Interstellar Matters is a detective story that evokes the excitement and serendipity of science against the background of a century of shared effort by the world community of astronomers.

From the reviews: "I can't imagine anyone interested in astronomy who won't enjoy this book - it's chocked full of science, personalities and insights. We are products of the stuff between the stars - Verschuur tells the fascinating story of how its existence was discovered. Interstellar Matters is his best book, I think. It's certainly one of the best astronomy popularizations I've read." (Leif J. Robinson, Sky & Telescope)

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

From the reviews: "I can't imagine anyone interested in astronomy who won't enjoy this book - it's chocked full of science, personalities and insights. We are products of the stuff between the stars - Verschuur tells the fascinating story of how its existence was discovered. Interstellar Matters is his best book, I think. It's certainly one of the best astronomy popularizations I've read." (Leif J. Robinson, Sky & Telescope)

Booknews
A history of the topic which is accessible to lay persons; will also hold the attention of scholars. No math. Acidic paper. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780387406060
  • Publisher: Springer New York
  • Publication date: 11/14/2003
  • Edition description: Softcover reprint of the original 1st ed. 1989
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 0.69 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Table of Contents

1 The Genesis of an Idea: Barnard’s Dilemma.- 1 “What Omnipotence!”.- 2 “The Immortal Fire Within”.- 3 “Misty Wreaths and Streams of Filmy Light”.- 4 “On the Question of Absorbing Matter in Space”.- 5 “Dark Regions ... Suggesting an Obscuration of Light”.- 6 “A Self-Made Man”.- 2 The Evolution of an Idea: The Dilemma Resolved.- 7 “Astronomers ... Must Presume the Existence of Such Matter”.- 8 “I Wonder What Our Successors Will Have Made of This Great Problem”.- 9 “Dark Nebulosity ... Absorbs the Light”.- 10 The Nature of the Dust.- 11 Odds, Ends, and IRAS.- 3 Interlude.- 12 The Thrill of Discovery.- 13 Science and Religion.- 14 Modeling.- 4 Modern Aspects of Interstellar Matter.- 15 The Milky Way.- 16 Radio Astrophysics.- 17 The Shape of the Milky Way.- 18 Interstellar Magnetic Fields.- 19 Molecules and Interstellar Matter.- 20 Formation of Molecules.- 21 Molecular Clouds and Star Formation.- 22 A Mysterious Interstellar Matter.- 23 An Extraterrestrial Matter.- 24 A Summary.

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