From the pages of the New York Times, a collection of reports from the farthest frontiers.
Pulitzer Prize–winner Wilford (The Mysterious History of Columbus, 1991, etc.) claims that the Times has been at the forefront in reporting news of astronomy and cosmology, and the evidence here is convincing. Beginning with the front-page article (from 1965) about the Bell Lab experiments by Penzias and Wilson that detected the cooling radiation of the Big Bang, the book presents the raw material of a detailed history of modern astronomy. The authors remind us that all the theoretical breakthroughs over the last decade or so have been supported by equal advances in telescope technology—not just the Hubble Space Telescope and other orbiting observatories, but radical new ground-based instruments. The Keck telescopes on Hawaii and the Very Large Telescope, now under construction in Chile, are likely to contribute enormously to our understanding of the cosmos. At the same time, they will provide new data for the theorists, who are trying to unravel such perplexing questions as the nature of the “dark matter” believed to constitute most of the mass of the universe. Planetary astronomy gets its due, as well, with looks at the ongoing question of life on other worlds and at perhaps the most striking scientific breakthrough in recent years: the discovery of planets in orbit around distant stars. Wilford (along with colleagues Broad, Browne, Leary, and others) presents these discoveries with a minimum of jargon, but with plenty of detail for the scientifically literate. The articles are reprinted as originally published; later developments are handled succinctly in introductions.
A valuable overview of the amazing new worlds uncovered by astronomy, by some of the best science writers in the business.