Why do the stars shine? What happens when you fall into a black hole? What’s the Moon made of? Is Pluto a planet or not? Does extraterrestrial life exist? How old is Earth? Can humans live in outer space? What is a quasar? How did the universe begin? How will it end? When it comes to the cosmos, it seems like everyone has a thousand questions.
Well, you’re in luck—this book has a thousand answers.
Actually, it contains more than a thousand answers to more than a thousand questions about the universe and how it works. These pages contain far more, though, than a mere compilation of facts and figures. Together, these questions and answers tell the story of astronomy—of the cosmos and its contents, and of humanity’s efforts throughout history to unlock its secrets and solve its mysteries.
Since the dawn of civilization, people have tried to understand the objects in the heavens—what they are, how they move, and why. At first, it was a total mystery; our ancient ancestors created myths and stories, and ascribed supernatural qualities to the stars and planets. Slowly, they learned that the heavens and its contents were natural, not supernatural, and that everyone, not just a privileged few, could understand them. Slowly, the science of astronomy was born.
What is science? It sure isn’t a bunch of facts in a big thick book that old folks in lab coats think you should memorize, regurgitate, and forget. Science is a process of asking questions and seeking answers by weighing the facts, making educated guesses, and then testing those guesses with predictions, experiments, and observations. That’s what this book is all about: the unquenchable impulse to ask questions and seek answers. You’ll read about the questions that were asked, the people who asked them, how they tried to find the answers, and what they discovered in the process. We owe what we know about the universe to the tireless work of those questioners—those men and women who laid the foundation of astronomy, who searched at the frontiers of knowledge.