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The Moon that Wasn't: The Saga of Venus' Spurious Satellite

By: Helge Kragh

199 pages, 33 figs, tabs


Hardback | Sep 2008 | #177202 | ISBN-13: 9783764389086
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £109.99 $144/€125 approx

About this book

This book details the history of one of astronomy's many spurious objects, the satellite of Venus. First spotted in 1645, the non-existing moon was observed more than a dozen times until the late eighteenth century.

Although few astronomers believed in the existence of the moon after about 1770, it continued to attract attention for at least another century. However, it has largely disappeared from the history of astronomy, and the rich historical sources have never been exploited. By telling the story of the enigmatic satellite in its proper historical context it is demonstrated that it was much more than a mere curiosity in the annals of astronomy - Frederick II of Prussia was familiar with it, and so was Bonnet, Kant and Voltaire. The satellite of Venus belongs to the same category as other fictitious celestial bodies (such as the planet Vulcan), yet it had its own life and fascinating historical trajectory. By following this trajectory, the history of planetary astronomy is addressed in a novel way.

From the reviews:"The moon that wasn't makes the reader aware of how the idea of a Venusian satellite retained its attractiveness not only in science but also in society ! . well-produced, clearly organized, and supported by useful illustrations ! and an extensive bibliography. ! Helge Kragh must be congratulated for writing a solid historical study that portrays lesser known, second- or even third-rate astronomical researches and for offering ! new case studies for philosophers of science to ponder." (JarosACaw WACodarczyk, Journal for the History of Astronomy, November, 2010)


Preface.- 1. Introduction.- 2.- A moon or not? A century of confusion.- 3. From climax to anticlimax.- 4. Contemporary analysis and criticism.- 5. A spurious but persistent satellite.- 6. Closure: the discussion of the 1880s.- 7. Conclusion, and a note on the satellites of Uranus.- 8. Appendix: Biographical sketches.- Bibliography.

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