padParallax The Race to Measure the Cosmos

by Alan W. Hirshfeld

This book traces the adventures of scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians who have struggled to fathom the stars. Hirshfeld presents an enthralling, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of these heroic stargazers. The author reveals how succeeding generations of observers have refined the use of parallax, the apparent shift in an object's position when viewed from various points. The technique required over 2,000 year's of evolution in both instrumentation and thought by revolutionary astronomers from Aristarchus to Friedrich Bessel. Hirshfeld reveals how theories of a sun-centered solar system replaced the dogma of an Earth-centered universe. He explains that Tycho Brahe in the 16th century accurately positioned planets and discerned their paths, which led to Johannes Kepler's understanding of planetary motion. Finally, Hirshfeld recounts how modern telescopes have brought astronomy techniques based on parallax to full fruition.

W H Freeman, 2001, 314 p., b&w; photos/illus., hardcover


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