The riveting and mesmerizing story behind a watershed period in human history, the discovery of the startling size and true nature of our universe.
On New Years Day in 1925, a young Edwin Hubble released his finding that our Universe was far bigger, eventually measured as a thousand trillion times larger than previously believed. Hubble’s proclamation sent shock waves through the scientific community. Six years later, in a series of meetings at Mount Wilson Observatory, Hubble and others convinced Albert Einstein that the Universe was not static but in fact expanding. Here Marcia Bartusiak reveals the key players, battles of will, clever insights, incredible technology, ground-breaking research, and wrong turns made by the early investigators of the heavens as they raced to uncover what many consider one of most significant discoveries in scientific history.
Science writer Bartusiak (Through a Universe Darkly) vividly tells the story behind the discovery that changed our cozy view of the universe. One hundred years ago, the Milky Way was all the cosmos we knew, "a lone, star-filled oasis surrounded by a darkness of unknown depth." But in 1929, word came that the universe was expanding. The find is largely attributed to astronomer Edwin Hubble, a Rhodes scholar and dandy, while he was observing the heavens through Mount Wilson's 100-inch telescope. Hubble became a media hit, but as Bartusiak explains, this finding was part of a long chain of discoveries made at the time. James Keeler's stellar photographs first revealed mysterious "celestial flocks" of fainter nebulae, and Henrietta Leavitt's relentless study of variable stars became the basis for determining stellar distances. Hubble's rival, Harlow Shapley, unveiled the architecture of the Milky Way and Earth's insignificant position within it. From the women "computers" who analyzed stellar photographs for Harvard to Mars-mad Percival Lowell, Bartusiak reveals the vibrant beginnings of modern astronomy, along with all the dreams and fears, rivalries and triumphs, of those involved.