Smithsonian Inst

  • Astronomy from Space

    Sputnik to Space Telescope

    Smithsonian Inst, James Cornell, and Paul Gorenstein

    Since the Space Age began a quarter-century ago, astronomers have been able to reach out and often touch celestial bodies that formerly could only be dimly viewed from afar. Probes have flown by or landed on many of the planets. Astronauts have made direct observations from Earth orbit and on the Moon. Most important, a host of satellites in Earth orbit have recorded the emissions of X-ray, infrared, and ultraviolet radiation from distant sources normally invisible beneath the atmosphere. And when the Space Telescope goes aloft, man's vision of the cosmos will be extended further still. The essays in this book describe the results of twenty-five years of space observation, summarize what has been learned so far, and speculate on the possibilities that are now within grasp. Leo Goldberg provides a point of departure by describing what astronomy was like when it was limited to peering at the night sky through Earthbound telescopes. Goldberg also expresses the hopes astronomers had for discovery in the anticipated Age of Space. The chapters that follow reveal what has been discovered about the geological features of the inner planets (James W. Head, III), the Moon (John A. Wood), the giant planets as seen during the close encounters of the Voyagers (Bradford A. Smith), and the Sun (Randolph H. Levine). The next chapters document the first ventures into deep space and describe the understanding of a previously invisible universe revealed by ultraviolet sources (Andrea K. Dupree) and X-ray sources within the Milky Way (Jonathan E. Grindlay) and beyond (Paul Gorenstein). George B. Field, who chaired the National Academy of Science committee charged with developing priorities for U.S. astronomical research in the 1980s, discusses the future of space astronomy. An epilogue by Ursula B. Marvin describes a planet body that until recently had never been seen from the vantage point of space: the Earth itself.

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