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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $13.50

144 pp.
20 black and white halftones, 111 mm x 174 mm


Publication date:
May 2008

Imprint: OUP UK

Galaxies: A Very Short Introduction

John Gribbin

Series : Very Short Introductions

Galaxies are the building blocks of the Universe: standing like islands in space, each is made up of many hundreds of millions of stars in which the chemical elements are made, around which planets form, and where on at least one of those planets intelligent life has emerged.

Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is just one of several hundred million other galaxies that we can now observe through our telescopes. Yet it was only in the 1920s that we realised that there is more to the Universe than the Milky Way, and that there were in fact other 'islands' out there. In many ways, modern astronomy began with this discovery, and the story of galaxies is therefore the story of modern astronomy. Since then, many exciting discoveries have been made about our own galaxy and about those beyond: how a supermassive black hole lurks at the centre of every galaxy, for example, how enormous forces are released when galaxies collide, how distant galaxies provide a window on the early Universe, and what the formation of young galaxies can tell us about the mysteries of Cold Dark Matter.

In this Very Short Introduction, renowned science writer John Gribbin describes the extraordinary things that astronomers are learning about galaxies, and explains how this can shed light on the origins and structure of the Universe.

Readership : This book will appeal to general readers looking for a short introduction to this fascinating area of astronomy: from readers of popular science, to physics undergraduates, amateur astronomers, and anyone interested in the Universe and the night sky.

1. A Very Short Introduction
2. The Great Debate
3. Our Island
4. The Expanding Universe
5. Across the Universe
6. The Origin of Galaxies
7. The Universe at Large
References & Further Reading

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John Gribbin has a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Cambridge and is one of the best-known current popular science writers. His many books include the acclaimed <i>The Universe: A Biography</i>, <i>In Search of Schrodinger's Cat</i>, and <i>Science: A History</i>. He has written for all the UK broadsheet newspapers, regularly contributes to radio and television documentaries and debates, and also writes science fiction novels. He formerly worked for <i>Nature</i> and <i>New Scientist</i>, and is presently a Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex.

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Special Features

  • Explains how galaxies are not only fascinating astronomical structures in themselves, but also how their study has revealed much of what we know today about the cosmos
  • Shows how galaxies provide a window on the Big Bang and the origins of the Universe, and discusses the latest discoveries of supermassive black holes and the mysteries of Cold Dark Matter
  • Looks at our own 'Milky Way' Galaxy in detail, from the different kinds of stars that are born within it, to the origins of its magnificent spiral structure
  • Tells the story of our growing understanding of galaxies, from the days before Galileo to our present-day observations of our many hundreds of millions of galactic neighbours
  • Part of the bestselling <i>Very Short Introductions</i> series - over two million copies sold