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Night Vision
Exploring the Infrared Universe


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  • Date Published: April 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107024762

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About the Authors
  • Drawing on exciting discoveries of the last forty years, Night Vision explores how infrared astronomy, an essential tool for modern astrophysics and cosmology, helps astronomers reveal our Universe's most fascinating phenomena – from the birth of stars in dense clouds of gas to black holes and distant colliding galaxies and the traffic of interstellar dust from the formation of our Solar System. While surveying the progress in infrared observation, astronomer Michael Rowan-Robinson introduces readers to the pioneering scientists and engineers who painstakingly developed infrared astronomy over the past two hundred years. Accessible and well illustrated, this comprehensive volume is written for the interested science reader, amateur astronomer or university student, while researchers in astronomy and the history of science will find Rowan-Robinson's detailed notes and references a valuable resource.

    • Provides a comprehensive history from the discovery of infrared radiation by William Herschel in 1800 to the Herschel Space Observatory launched in 2009
    • The general reader will find a wealth of new phenomena described in the text as well as answers to perennial questions about the Universe
    • Researchers and graduate students will value the detailed notes and references
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    • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2013

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Night Vision is a fascinating and authoritative account of the dramatically different Universe revealed when we observe the sky at infrared and submillimeter wavelengths. In a very readable style, often conversational and punctuated with anecdotes, Rowan-Robinson traces the history of the subject, from its discovery right up to the present day and future plans. The book is enlivened with many well-chosen graphics and images of pioneering scientists. Extensive quotations from the scientific literature, as well as personal accounts of some major events in which the author has participated, give insight into the agonies and ecstasies of exploration at the boundaries of human knowledge. This volume will be valuable to a wide range of audiences ranging from the casual reader interested in science to students, research scientists and historians of science.' Michael G. Hauser, Astronomer Emeritus, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore

    'An excellent introduction to infrared astronomy.' BBC Sky at Night

    'Astronomer Rowan-Robinson is intimately acquainted with astronomical investigations done in the infrared (beyond visible) region of the spectrum, having made several important discoveries himself. Here, he reviews the history of infrared from its discovery by William Herschel in 1800, to the detection of infrared absorption by the Earth's atmosphere in the solar spectrum by John Herschel in 1840, and the detection of infrared radiation from the moon by Piazzi Smyth in 1856.' M. K. Hemenway, Choice

    'Nicely illustrated and presented.' Astronomy Now

    'The language is accurate and efficient without being excessively technical. … [the book] provides an approachable single source for anyone wishing to understand the major discoveries of infrared astronomy over the past few decades, and sets out the scientific rationale behind the next decade's major ground- and space-based observatories.' Alistair Glasse, The Observatory

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2013
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107024762
    • length: 259 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 156 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.56kg
    • contains: 65 b/w illus. 30 colour illus. 1 table
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. William Herschel opens up the invisible universe
    3. 1800–1950: slow progress – the moon, planets, bright stars, and the discovery of interstellar dust
    4. Dying stars shrouded in dust and stars being born: the emergence of infrared astronomy in the 60s and 70s
    5. Birth of far infrared and submillimetre astronomy: clouds of dust and molecules in our Galaxy
    6. The cosmic microwave background, echo of the Big Bang
    7. The Infrared Astronomical Satellite and the opening up of extragalactic infrared astronomy: starbursts and active galactic nuclei
    8. The Cosmic Background Explorer and the ripples, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Explorer, and dark energy
    9. Giant ground-based infrared and submillimetre telescopes
    10. The Infrared Space Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope: the star-formation history of the universe and infrared galaxy populations
    11. Our dusty Solar System, debris disks and the search for exoplanets
    12. The future: pioneering space missions and giant ground-based telescopes
    Credits for illustrations
    Further reading
    Index of names

  • Author

    Michael Rowan-Robinson, Imperial College London
    Michael Rowan-Robinson served as Head of Astrophysics at Imperial College, London, from 1993 to 2007 and as President of the Royal Astronomical Society from 2006 to 2008. He has received numerous awards for his work in infrared and submillimetre astronomy, including the first Institute of Physics Hoyle Medal in 2008. He worked on the IRAS, ISO, Spitzer, and Herschel missions and was involved in the pioneering submillimetre observations of the 1970s.


    • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2013

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