Discovering the Cosmos, second edition

R.C. Bless

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Format: Paperback

Publication date: March 13, 2013

Pages: 728 pages

ISBN: 9781891389719 Related titles:


Based on the very popular liberal arts course Bob Bless has taught at University of Wisconsin for many years, this book provides a rich, historical approach to introductory astronomy. It is ideal for use in an introductory astronomy course for nonmajors. In the fifteen years since the first edition of this text was published, several new concepts such as dark matter, dark energy,  and an incredible expansion of the universe (inflation) have been developed.

Furthermore, many of the exotic effects predicted by General Relativity (e.g. black holes, warped space) have gone from being interesting theoretical speculations to useful practical tools for understanding the universe. This book aims to give an overview of astronomy, but in such a way that the non-science major can get a feeling for how science actually developed with its false starts and wrong turns, which observational evidence eventually corrected, and also to describe the incredible recent developments in our understanding of the physical universe. Several chapters of this 2nd edition have been extensively revised to include these recent developments.

Because it has become increasingly difficult to “cover” all of astronomy in a one-semester course, this edition has largely omitted coverage of the physical nature of the objects in our, and other, planetary systems, although a discussion of the possibility of life elsewhere closes the book.

1. Comments to the Reader

PART I: Cosmology From the Beginnings through Newton
2. The Naked-Eye Sky
3. Early Greek Astronomy
4. The Beginnings of Quantitative Astronomy
5. The New Astronomy
6. Newtonian Synthesis

PART II: The Tools of the Astronomer
7. Tools of the Astronomer – Physical Concepts
8. Tools of the Astronomer – Hardware

PART III: The Life and Death of Stars
9. Reading Stellar Spectra
10. The Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram
11. The Structure of Stars
12. The Interstellar Medium – Birthplace of the Stars
13. Stellar Evolution – The Early Phases
14. The Late Phases of Stellar Evolution – Degenerate Corpses
15. Black Holes

PART IV: Cosmology from Herschel to the Present
16. The Discovery of Galaxies
17. The University of Galaxies
18. Active Galaxies
19. The First Cosmological Clues
20. Models of the Universe
21. The Mysterious Universe

22. Life Elsewhere: Are We Alone?


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