AAS 198th Meeting, June 2001
Session 3. Analysis, Data and Distances
Display, Monday, June 4, 2001, 9:20am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall

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[3.08] Parallax: The Race to Measure the Cosmos

A. W. Hirshfeld (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth)

The new book "Parallax: The Race to Measure the Cosmos" chronicles the centuries-long struggle to secure the first distance to a star through detection of stellar parallax. Beginning with the naked-eye attempts of Tycho Brahe and proceeding through the telescopic studies of Robert Hooke, James Bradley, and William Herschel, all three of whom employed observational strategies suggested by Galileo, the effort to measure stellar parallax gained momentum in the early 19th century with dramatic improvements in telescope technology by German craftsmen such as Joseph Fraunhofer. Three near-contemporaneous announcements of stellar parallaxes were made in the late 1830s by Thomas Henderson (Alpha Centauri), Wilhelm Struve (Vega), and Friedrich Bessel (61 Cygni). By consensus of the astronomical community, Bessel was credited with the first successful measurement of a star's distance. With its biographical focus, "Parallax: The Race to Measure the Cosmos" highlights the human dimensions of scientific achievement.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://www.whfreeman.com/generalreaders/book.asp?1149000073. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: ahirshfeld@umassd.edu

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