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Secrets of the Universe

How We Discovered the Cosmos

Paul Murdin


World-renowned astronomer Paul Murdin tells the stories of key astronomical discoveries.

Also available as an eBook from Amazon


How did our universe come to exist? Why do stars shine? Is there life beyond the Earth? For millennia, humans have looked to the celestial sphere to explain the cosmos, first recording the movements of the Moon 25,000 years ago. Since the Enlightenment and the dawn of the space age, scientists have been unravelling cosmic mysteries, and raising astonishing new questions for future generations to answer. Today we live in an age of unprecedented astronomical revelation, from the discovery of water on Mars to the detection of gravitational waves and the first photograph of a black hole. Paul Murdin explains the science behind these discoveries, along with the passions, struggles and quirks of fate that made them some of the most intriguing dramas of their times, demonstrating how human ingenuity and technological innovation have expanded our knowledge of the Universe beyond anything our ancestors – even as recently as a generation ago – could ever have imagined.


'‘Crammed with fascinating facts and figures’ '
Observatory Magazine

'‘This is the book to reignite your sense of wonder’'
National Space Society

'‘Good reading … I can do no more than strongly recommend it’'
Astronomy Now

'While being consistent and fluid as a whole, each chapter equally serves as a perfect stand-alone essay … it’s an excellent book to see the amateur astronomer through those cloudy nights. Five stars'
BBC Sky at Night

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 19.8 x 13.0 cm

Extent: 352 pp

Illustrations: 29

Publication date: 20 February 2020

ISBN: 9780500295199

Contents List

Introduction • Discoveries Before the Telescope • Discoveries in the Solar System Discoveries of the Dynamic Universe • Discoveries of Our Galaxy and Its Stars • Discoveries of the Universe and Its Galaxies Future Discoveries

About the Author

Paul Murdin, OBE, has worked as an astronomer in the UK, the USA, Australia and
Spain, and discovered the first stellar black hole, Cygnus X1. He is a fellow of the
Royal Astronomical Society, former president of the European Astronomical Society
and Senior Professor Emeritus at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of
Cambridge. In 2012 Asteroid 128562 was named ‘Murdin’ by the IAU in honour of his
contributions to the field. His book Secrets of the Planets was published in 2019.

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