The Haunted Observatory: Curiosities from the Astronomer's Cabinet

Overview

For many centuries observers of the night sky interpreted the moving planets and the surrounding starry realms in terms of concentric crystalline spheres, in the center of which hung the Earth — the hub of creation. But with the discoveries of Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton, astronomers were suddenly struck by a momentous truth: the solar system was neither small nor intimate, but extended an unfathomable distance toward countless even more distant stars. The endless possibilities of these astounding ...
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Overview

For many centuries observers of the night sky interpreted the moving planets and the surrounding starry realms in terms of concentric crystalline spheres, in the center of which hung the Earth — the hub of creation. But with the discoveries of Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton, astronomers were suddenly struck by a momentous truth: the solar system was neither small nor intimate, but extended an unfathomable distance toward countless even more distant stars. The endless possibilities of these astounding developments fired scientists’ imaginations, leading both to further discoveries and to flights of fancy.
While newly discovered facts are important and interesting, the quaint curiosities and spectral "ghosts" that led scientists astray have a fascination of their own. This is the subject of astronomer Richard Baum in this elegant narrative about the mysteries and wonders of celestial exploration. The fabled "mountains of Venus," a "city in the moon," ghostly rings around Uranus and Neptune, bright inexplicable objects seen near the sun, and the truth behind Coleridge’s "Star dogged Moon" in his famous poem about the Ancient Mariner — these are just some of the intriguing twists and turns that astronomers took while investigating our starry neighbors.
Baum vividly conveys the romance of astronomy at a time when the vistas of outer space were a new frontier and astronomers, guided only by imagination and analogy, set forth on uncharted seas and were haunted for a lifetime by marvels both seen and imagined.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In every field of scientific research, fitful progress is the norm, and comes only after numerous dead ends, backtrackings and wild goose chases that make up 'the flotsam and jetsam of scientific advance'; Baum, a British astronomer ... has put together a fascinating collection of this outmoded ephemera in this alternate history of science, populated by the famous and the forgotten....Baum helps contemporary readers understand why observations were interpreted as they were, and how centuries-old records still have value today...for amateur and professional astronomers, and those interested in the history of science, the gems contained here are worth the effort."
-Publishers Weekly

"As a wordsmith of the first magnitude, Baum has produced both an authoritative and fascinating compilation distilled from the annals of astronomy, and in so doing has derived new insights into mysteries of the past. A book to be savored, chapter by chapter!"
-Dr. Richard Miles
President of the British Astronomical Association

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591025122
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 8/28/2007
  • Pages: 290
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Baum (Chester, England) is the director emeritus of the Terrestrial Planets Section and Mercury and Venus Section of the British Astronomical Association. A 2005 recipient of the Walter H. Haas Annual Award of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers, he is the author of the acclaimed In Search of Planet Vulcan (with William Sheehan). He is also the recipient of the prestigious Walter Goodacre Medal and the Lydia A. Brown Medal of the British Astronomical Association. The International Astronomical Union named minor planet 7966 after him.
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