Astronomy and Cosmogony

Astronomy and Cosmogony

Astronomy and Cosmogony

Astronomy and Cosmogony

Excerpt

My book attempts to describe the present position of Cosmogony and of various closely associated problems of Astronomy, as, for instance, the physical state of astronomical matter, the structure of the stars, the origin of their radiation, their ages and the course of their evolution.

In a subject which is developing so rapidly, few problems can be discussed with any approach to finality, but this did not seem to be a reason against writing the book. Many years have elapsed since the last book on general Cosmogony appeared, and the interval has seen the whole subject transformed by new knowledge imported from observational astronomy and atomic physics. It has also witnessed the growth of an interest in the results of Cosmogony, which now extends far beyond the ranks of professional astronomers, and indeed beyond scientific circles altogether.

With this in my mind, I have tried to depict the present situation in the simplest language consistent with scientific accuracy, avoiding technicalities where possible, and otherwise explaining them. As the book is intended to be, first and foremost, a rigorously argued scientific treatise, the inclusion of a substantial amount of mathematical analysis was inevitable, but every effort has been made to render the results intelligible to readers with no mathematical knowledge, of whom I hope the book may have many.

In a sense the book constitutes a sequel to my Problems of Cosmogony and Stellar Dynamics of ten years ago. So much has happened in the intervening decade that a new book seemed to be called for, rather than a new edition of the old. At any rate I allowed myself to be attracted by the idea of a big clean canvas on which I could paint a picture on a more comprehensive scale than had originally been possible in the SYSTEMation of a Prize Essay. A considerable part of the present book is devoted to examining the consequences of the hypothesis, first put forward in the closing pages of the earlier book, that the energy of stellar radiation arises out of the annihilation of stellar matter. The calculations of stellar ages given in the present book seem to shew that this is the only possible source of stellar energy, since nothing short of the complete annihilation of matter can give an adequate life to the stars. I have, however, tried to explain and discuss all reasonable hypotheses at present in the field, both on this and other subjects . . .

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