Excerpt, book review by David De Vorkin, Senior Curator for History of Astronomy, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
“Cosmic Odyssey, florid and breezy, is chock full of fascinating detail and technical insights about the discoveries modern astronomers have made using the 200-inch Hale Telescope on Palomar Mountain in Southern California over the past 70 years …
“ … a visiting scholar post [at Caltech] … gave [the author] the time and access to Palomar and its staff, whom she interviewed extensively gaining a deep appreciation of what it meant to be able to use what was then the world’s largest optical telescope. This background on the author is critical to appreciating the lively and personal character of the book.
First, it is not a history of the planning, funding, and building of the telescope … but the bulk of her attention is devoted to eleven fascinating subject areas covering how stars live and die, how galaxies form, the discovery of quasars, which she dubs “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing,” and the recalibration of the Cepheid period-luminosity relation by Walter Baade that significantly altered the so-called “Hubble Constant” … Also nicely portrayed was how the Hale telescope has been trained on the nearby universe—the solar system …but the real story she paints is the inventiveness and persistence of the astronomers.”
“Astronomer and author Linda Schweizer talks about her comprehensive new history of Palomar Observatory — “Cosmic Odyssey: How Intrepid Astronomers At Palomar Observatory Changed Our View of the Universe” from MIT Press. We focus on Palomar’s early 20th century construction and history. Schweizer is an expert on every aspect of the observatory; its history, and its many astronomical discoveries.” Listen now >
Excerpts from a glowing review of CosmicOdyssey by Peredur Williams of the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, published in THE OBSERVATORY:
“This is a splendid book reporting splendid science: the achievements of astronomers using the telescopes on Palomar mountain, in particular the 200-inch, told by an insider … The synergy of these survey telescopes and the ‘Big Eye’ is one of the themes of the story. The following chapters are dedicated to different fields of investigation, in each case ‘following the threads of discovery from origin to culmination’. I found this treatment to work very well and to be one of the strengths of the book.”
“This tour is structured, comprehensive, and well referenced. I was constantly impressed by the longevity of ideas and the value of long-term programmes sustained by substantial amounts of observing time.”
“The book is well written in a lively style, rich in anecdote. With input from interviews with many of the participants it tells us how the science was done, including wrong turnings, and gives a feel for life at the Observatory.”
Cosmic Odyssey “is intended for a wider readership than astronomers” and “is beautifully illustrated throughout.”
“In Cosmic Odyssey, Linda Schweizer has perfectly encapsulated its rich history and astonishing discoveries in a book which will thrill astronomers and engineers alike…While some hardback astronomy publications can be oversized and cumbersome, Schweizer’s easy-to-handle hardback takes it from a ‘coffee-table flick-through’ book to a ‘pick up, take anywhere and delve in’ title so, during a time when travel is restricted, sit back and allow yourself to be transported to this beautiful art deco observatory and deep into the Universe.” Read full review >
How Palomar’s Big Eye Telescope Forever Changed Astronomy, Bruce Dorminey reviews Cosmic Odyssey for Forbes.
For those unfamiliar with how George Ellery Hale’s 200-inch Big Eye Telescope at Palomar observatory forever changed astronomy, Linda Schweizer’s recent book will be a revelation.
Hale’s early 20th-century designs for a mountaintop observatory in Southern California’s Peninsular Ranges had by 1948 morphed into one of the world’s greatest scientific instruments. And the observatory remains an astronomical workhorse even today.
Astronomer Linda Schweizer spent countless hours interviewing the explorers who revolutionized astronomy through observations made at California’s Palomar Observatory. She tells their fascinating stories and shares their science in her new book Cosmic Odyssey: How Intrepid Astronomers at Palomar Observatory Changed our View of the Universe. Attention space poets! You might win a Planetfest ’21 t-shirt as Mat and Bruce invite your best efforts in the new What’s Up contest. Hey, it could be verse! Listen here >
Based on its generic-sounding title, you might expect this to be a broad-ranging history of astrophysical concepts – and if you buy it on that basis you won’t be disappointed. From stellar evolution and the structure of galaxies to supermassive black holes, quasars and the expansion of the universe, Linda Schweizer shows – in admirably non-technical detail – how our understanding of the fundamental pillars of modern astronomy developed over several decades from a standing start. Read more >
Cosmic Odyssey was favorably reviewed in The Space Review. Read it here >
Linda Schweizer’s Cosmic Odyssey is a thrilling account of the cosmological discoveries of the past century that “pulls back the curtain” on the brilliant, eccentric scientists who achieved those breakthroughs.
This exceptional book begins with the history of the Palomar Observatory, from its opening in 1936 through to the evolution of its four large telescopes, including the “Big Eye” with its 200-inch diameter Pyrex mirror. Read more >