Rock Legends: The Asteroids and Their Discoverers

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Springer, 13 lip 2016 - 207
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This book relates the history of asteroid discoveries and christenings, from those of the early pioneering giants of Hersehel and Piazzi to modern-day amateurs. Moving from history and anecdotal information to science, the book's structure is provided by the names of the asteroids, including one named after the author.

Free from a need to conform to scientific naming conventions, the names evidence hero-worship, sycophancy, avarice, vanity, whimsy, erudition and wit, revealing the human side of astronomers, especially where controversy has followed the christening. Murdin draws from extensive historical records to explore the debate over these names. Each age reveals its own biases and preferences in the naming process.


Originally regarded as “vermin of the skies,” asteroids are minor planets, rocky scraps left over from the formation of the larger planets, or broken fragments of worlds that have collided. Their scientific classification as “minor” planets makes them seem unimportant, but over the past decades asteroids have been acknowledged to be key players in the Solar System. This view of their starring role even alters the trajectories of spacecraft: NASA’s policy for new space missions en route to the outer planets is that they must divert to study passing asteroids whenever possible. This book provides for readers a complete tour of the fascinating world of asteroids.


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Spis treści

My Asteroid My Book
When the Stars Fell Down
Finding Asteroids by Eye
Finding and Investigating Asteroids Using Technology
Naming and Possessing
The Catalog and the Names It Inspires
At the Edge of the Solar System
Filling the Gap
Ruled by the Planets
The Chaos of the Solar System
The Fate of Asteroids
References and Sources
Index of Named People
Index of Planet Moon Asteroid Meteor and Crater Names
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Informacje o autorze (2016)

Paul Murdin is a distinguished internationally known astronomer with a track record of well-written books and eloquent lectures about astronomy. He has been honored with an OBE in 1988, the Award of the Royal Astronomical Society for Services to [professional] Astronomy in 2011, the Eric Zucker Award of the Federation of Astronomical Societies for outreach to amateur astronomers, in 2012, and the name of asteroid 128562 Murdin.

Educated at the universities of Oxford and Rochester, NY, Paul Murdin has worked as an astronomer in the USA, Australia, England, Scotland and in Spain, where he led the operation of the Anglo-Dutch Isaac Newton Group of telescopes in the Canary Islands. He has been a research scientist (studying supernovae, neutron stars and black holes – in 1972 Paul discovered the nature of the first black hole known in our Galaxy, Cygnus X-1) and a science administrator for the UK Government and the Royal Astronomical Society. He works at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge, England, and is Visiting Professor at John Moores University, Liverpool. He has a secondary career as a broadcaster and commentator for the BBC and CNN, as well as a lecturer and writer on astronomy, including repeat appearances on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time and at a number of literary and science festivals, like those at Hay-on-Wye and Edinburgh, and on the QE2. His most recent books include

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