FIGURE 3.11 Cepheids in the Andromeda galaxy. Using the 100-inch Hooker telescope at Mt. Wilson, Hubble managed to measure the light curves of variable stars in the Andromeda galaxy, which he identified as Cepheids, and used to infer the distance to the galaxy. SOURCE: Hubble, 1936.

3.5.6 Thinking Spatially in Astronomy: The Role of Astrophysical Spatialization

Astronomy has at its core a long and powerful practice of spatial thinking. Two factors enabled its advancement: (1) a careful and systematic observation of the heavens and (2) a series of intellectual breakthroughs achieved by some of the finest spatial thinkers in the history of science. Breakthroughs enabled astronomy to build a picture of the universe in space and time, starting from the seemingly simple observation of the apparent position and brightness of celestial objects in the night sky. The boundary of our knowledge of the four-dimensional structure of the universe spread out from Earth like a ripple from a rock thrown in the pond. Eratosthenes’ work provided a baseline, the shape and size of Earth. Kepler used the observations of Brahe to build a rational view of the spatial structure of the solar system and the motion of planets and other objects within it. With time,



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement