Mapping the Heavens

It wasn’t so very long ago that mankind congratulated itself on being on a world which was the centre of the Universe. The stars and heavenly bodies were a mere backdrop to the human drama which was played out in front of a creator deity. It has taken courage and enormous patient observation to break free from that infantile delusion.


This book provides a tour of those great breakthroughs in cosmology – the ideas that reshaped our sense of the universe over the past century. The cosmos, once understood as a stagnant place, filled with the ordinary, is now a universe that is expanding at an accelerating pace, propelled by dark energy and structured by dark matter. Priyamvada Natarajan (, our guide to these ideas, is someone at the forefront of the research – an astrophysicist who literally creates maps of invisible matter in the universe. She not only explains for a wide audience the science behind these essential ideas but also provides an understanding of how radical scientific theories gain acceptance.


The formation and growth of black holes, dark matter halos, the accelerating expansion of the universe, the echo of the big bang, the discovery of exoplanets, and the possibility of other universes – these are some of the puzzling cosmological topics of the early twenty-first century. Natarajan discusses why the acceptance of new ideas about the universe and our place in it has never been linear and always contested even within the scientific community. And she affirms that, shifting and incomplete as science always must be, it offers the best path we have toward making sense of our wondrous, mysterious universe. A treat of a book not to be missed.


Priyamvada Natarajan is Professor of Astronomy at Yale.



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256 pages in Yale University Press

First published 2016

ISBN  978-0300204414


Priyamvada Natarajan

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