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The Making of History's Greatest Star Map

Series: Astronomers' Universe

By: Michael Perryman

282 pages, B/w illus


Hardback | Apr 2010 | #187012 | ISBN-13: 9783642116018
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £29.99 $39/€34 approx

About this book

From prehistoric times, mankind has looked up at the night sky, and puzzled at the changing positions of the stars. How far away they are is a question that has confounded scientists for centuries. Over the last few hundred years, many scientific careers - and considerable resources - have been devoted to measuring their positions and motions with ever increasing accuracy. And in the last two decades of the 20th century, the European Space Agency developed and launched the Hipparcos satellite, around which this account revolves, to carry out these exacting measurements from space. What has prompted these remarkable developments? Why have governments been persuaded to fund them? What are scientists learning from astronomy's equivalent of the Human Genome Project?

This book traces the subject's history, explains why such enormous efforts are considered worthwhile, and interweaves these with a first-hand insight into the Hipparcos project, and how big science is conducted at an international level. The involvement of amateur astronomers, and the Hipparcos contributions to climate research, 'death stars' passing close to the Sun, and the search for extra-solar planets and even intelligent life itself, are some of the surprising facets of this unusual space mission. 'One of the defining points in the creative life of the human mind came about when the ancient Greeks realised that, through a combination of mathematical geometry and the devising of increasingly accurate instruments using 360 scales, it was possible to map the heavens. And from Hipparchus in 150 BC, to ESA's Hipparcos project in the late twentieth century, much of the history of astronomy has been about the increasingly refined measurement of stellar angles, and how we can use them to make sense of the cosmos.

Aus den Rezensionen: "! Dieses wunderschone Werk ist vieles gleichzeitig. Eine ungemein spannende Erzahlung, ein erstklassiges popularwissenschaftliches Lesebuch, eine Fundgrube fur kunftige Wissenschaftshistoriker, eine Einfuhrung in die Arbeitsweise ! ein tiefer Einblick in die Psychologie und Soziologie solcher Projekte ! fur Sternfreunde und interessierte Laien geschrieben ! auch fur Profis absolut lesenswert. Fur diejenigen Profis die selbst an einem solchen Grossprojekt mitgearbeitet haben gibt es eine Aussenansicht ihres eigenen Wirkens. Fur die anderen gibt es einen Eindruck wie ein solches Projekt ablauft und funktioniert." (ULRICH BASTIAN, in: Sterne und Weltraum, October/2010, Issue 10, S. 110) "... Dieses wunderschone Werk ist vieles gleichzeitig: Eine ungemein spannende Erzahlung, ein erstklassiges popularwissenschaftliches Lesebuch, eine Fundgrube fur kunftige Wissenschaftshistoriker, eine Einfuhrung in die Arbeitsweise ... ein Beweis dafur, dass die ... englische Sprache auch sehr schon sein kann. ! Aufbau und Gliederung ... orientieren sich mehr an dem Wunsch, eine spannende Lekture zu bieten ... spannend und unterhaltsam ! Mermale sind die schone Sprache und die vielen fantasievollen Sprachbilder ! fur Sternfreunde und interessierte Laien geschrieben, aber auch fur Profis absolut lesenswert ..." (Ulrich Bastian, in:, 5/January/2011)


Prologue.- Hipparcos Launch.- 1 Our Place in the Cosmos.- 2 Why Star Positions?.- 3 Early History.- 4 Developments 1850--1980.- 5 The Push to Space.- 6 From Concept to Launch.- 7 Disaster Unfolds.- 8 Mission Recovery.- 9 Science in the Making.- 10 The Finishing Touches.- 11 Our Galaxy.- 12 Inside the Stars.- 13 Our Solar System and Habitability.- 14 The Future.- Epilogue.- Notes.- Stereo Views.- Acknowledgments.- Index.

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Michael Perryman has spent a career in space science focused on Europe's ambitious programme to map the stars. For his scientific leadership of the Hipparcos project, the first star mapping programme carried out from space and the greatest leap in accuracy in history, he was awarded the Prix Janssen of the French Astronomical Society in 1996, and the Academic Medal of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999.

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