The Birth of Modern Astronomy

  • Harm J. Habing

Part of the Historical & Cultural Astronomy book series (HCA)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xlii
  2. Part I

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Harm J. Habing
      Pages 33-64
    3. Harm J. Habing
      Pages 65-85
    4. Harm J. Habing
      Pages 87-140
    5. Harm J. Habing
      Pages 141-189
    6. Harm J. Habing
      Pages 191-212
    7. Harm J. Habing
      Pages 213-263
    8. Harm J. Habing
      Pages 265-300
  3. Part II

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 301-301
    2. Harm J. Habing
      Pages 381-406
    3. Harm J. Habing
      Pages 407-432
    4. Harm J. Habing
      Pages 463-503
    5. Harm J. Habing
      Pages 505-534
    6. Harm J. Habing
      Pages 535-553
  4. Back Matter
    Pages 555-565

About this book


This richly illustrated book discusses the ways in which astronomy expanded after 1945 from a modest discipline to a robust and modern science. It begins with an introduction to the state of astronomy in 1945 before recounting how in the following years, initial observations were made in hitherto unexplored ranges of wavelengths, such as X-radiation, infrared radiation and radio waves. These led to the serendipitous discovery of more than a dozen new phenomena, including quasars and neutron stars, that each triggered a new area of research.

The book goes on to discuss how after 1985, the further, systematic exploration of the earlier discoveries led to long-term planning and the construction of new, large telescopes on Earth and in Space. Key scientific highlights described in the text are the detection of exoplanets (1995), the unexpected discovery of the accelerated expansion of the Universe (1999), a generally accepted model for the large-scale properties of the Universe (2003) and the ΛCDM theory (2005) that explains how the galaxies and stars of the present Universe were formed from minute irregularities in the (almost) homogenous gas that filled the early Universe.

All these major scientific achievements came at a price, namely the need to introduce two new phenomena that are as yet unexplained by physics: inflation and dark energy. Probably the deepest unsolved question has to be: Why did all of this start with a Big Bang?


history of radio astronomy history of infrared astronomy history of X-ray astronomy discovery of dark matter discovery of quasars discovery of pulsars history of Hubble constant cosmic inflation origin of stars

Authors and affiliations

  • Harm J. Habing
    • 1
  1. 1.Leiden ObservatoryLeidenThe Netherlands

Bibliographic information