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A Concise History of Solar and Stellar Physics

A Concise History of Solar and Stellar Physics

Jean-Louis Tassoul
Monique Tassoul
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    A Concise History of Solar and Stellar Physics
    Book Description:

    This book provides a comprehensive overview of the history of ideas about the sun and the stars, from antiquity to modern times. Two theoretical astrophysicists who have been active in the field since the early 1960s tell the story in fluent prose. About half of the book covers most of the theoretical research done from 1940 to the close of the twentieth century, a large body of work that has to date been little explored by historians.

    The first chapter, which outlines the period from about 3000 B.C. to 1700 A.D., shows that at every stage in history human beings have had a particular understanding of the sun and stars, and that this has continually evolved over the centuries. Next the authors systematically address the immense mass of observations astronomy accumulated from the early seventeenth century to the early twentieth. The remaining four chapters examine the history of the field from the physicists perspective, the emphasis being on theoretical work from the mid-1840s to the late 1990s--from thermodynamics to quantum mechanics, from nuclear physics and magnetohydrodynamics to the remarkable advances through to the late 1960s, and finally, to more recent theoretical work. Intended mainly for students and teachers of astronomy, this book will also be a useful reference for practicing astronomers and scientifically curious general readers.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6539-0
    Subjects: Physics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Jean-Louis Tassoul and Monique Tassoul
  5. Chapter One The Age of Myths and Speculations
    (pp. 1-28)

    For thousands of years men have looked up into the star-filled night sky and have wondered about the nature of the “fixed” stars as opposed to that of the five planets wandering among the constellations of the zodiac. The daily course of the sun, its brilliance and heat, and the passing of the seasons are among the central problems that have concerned every human society. Undoubtedly, the appearance of a comet or a shooting star, the passing phenomena of clouds and rain and lightning, the Milky Way, the changing phases of the moon and the eclipses—all of these must...

  6. Chapter Two Three Centuries of Optical Discoveries: 1610–1910
    (pp. 29-65)

    Prior to the seventeenth century, our practical knowledge of the universe was based on visual observations made with the naked eye. In the 1610s, however, the entire course of astronomy was dramatically and permanently changed when Galileo and others raised their refracting telescopes toward the heavens, and so made observations possible beyond anything attainable before. Galileo’s first series of telescopic discoveries were published early in 1610 in a twenty-four-page pamphlet entitledSidereus nuncius(The sidereal messenger). Part of the little book discusses the revelation by the telescope of an immense number of fixed stars too faint for recognition by the...

  7. Chapter Three The Time of Pioneers: 1840–1910
    (pp. 66-93)

    Following Kepler’s empirical derivation of the laws of planetary motion and Galileo’s deductions about falling bodies and projectiles, Newton virtually created the new sciences of dynamics and celestial mechanics, which he discussed in hisPrincipiain 1687. In it, Newton made clear statements of the three basic laws that govern the motions of material bodies, and explained the orbits of the celestial bodies from their mutual gravitational attraction.

    Specifically,Newton’s first lawstates that a body will continue in a state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, if no force acts upon it. This law, which...

  8. Chapter Four The Formative Years: 1910–1940
    (pp. 94-132)

    The nineteenth century saw the completion of the science of dynamics founded two centuries earlier by Galileo and Newton. This theory not only provided a successful explanation for all mechanical phenomena known at that time but also laid the foundations of the kinetic theory of gases. Classical statistical mechanics, in turn, provided a sound base for thermodynamics, which had become an exact science with the enunciation of the all-embracing principle of the conservation of energy. The development of electrodynamics also made it possible to understand the phenomena of light, electricity, and magnetism in terms of a single set of basic...

  9. Chapter Five The Golden Age: 1940–1970
    (pp. 133-191)

    Globular clusters are tight groupings of stars, containing on the average several hundred thousand stars, which differ from the loosely grouped and less populous galactic clusters in their spatial distribution. In the late 1910s the American astronomer Harlow Shapley, a former student of Russell at Princeton and later director of the Harvard College Observatory from 1921 to 1952, examined several globular clusters in detail using the Mount Wilson 60-inch reflector. This led him to recognize, in 1920, that the Milky Way—our galaxy—is much larger than was generally suspected and that the sun is not located near its center....

  10. Chapter Six The Era of Specialization: 1970–
    (pp. 192-246)

    From the first astronomical use of the telescope by Galileo and others in the 1610s until the accidental discovery of radio waves coming from outer space in 1931, everything astronomers knew about the sun and stars was based entirely on observations made in visible light. During the 1930s, tentative steps were taken in the nascent science of radio astronomy, and experimental rockets were launched in the United States and Germany. Due to World War II, however, real progress was delayed until the late 1940s. At the end of the war, astronomers realized that many recent advances in radar and rocketry,...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 247-249)

    It is undeniable that our scientific knowledge of the sun and the stars has progressed continuously since the early seventeenth century, when Galileo and his contemporaries first directed telescopes at the heavens. Yet it was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that pioneering scientists developed instruments and theories capable of providing detailed information about the physical and chemical nature of these objects. In this book we have attempted to present the history of solar and stellar physics from the viewpoint of the theoretician, which is why we had to quote differential equations at some places in chapters 3...

  12. Appendix A. Lane’s Fully Convective Gas Spheres
    (pp. 250-250)
  13. Appendix B. Ritter’s Polytropic Gas Spheres
    (pp. 251-251)
  14. Appendix C. Ritter’s Theory of Pulsating Stars
    (pp. 252-253)
  15. Appendix D. Radial and Nonradial Stellar Pulsations
    (pp. 254-256)
  16. Appendix E. Bohr’s Model of the Atom
    (pp. 257-259)
  17. Appendix F. Einstein’s Mass-Energy Relation
    (pp. 260-262)
  18. Appendix G. Three Important Nuclear Reactions
    (pp. 263-264)
  19. General Bibliography
    (pp. 265-268)
  20. Index of Names
    (pp. 269-276)
  21. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 277-282)