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 centre 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.
...provides a rare treat for the patient reader...[a] well-told tale...Perhaps the biggest thing this book contributes is its efforts to build a desire on the part of readers to go look at the night sky for themselves. And surely that is worth a lot. -- Science Books & Films, April 1, 2008.
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