Priyamvada Natarajan is a Professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale, where she also directs the Franke Program in Science and the Humanities. She is the author of Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the 
Cosmos.
 (October 2019)

IN THE REVIEW

In Search of Planet X

Pluto, July 2015; photographed by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, with enhanced color

Discovering Pluto: Exploration at the Edge of the Solar System

by Dale P. Cruikshank and William Sheehan

Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon
Two recent books offer ringside views of the exploration of the outer solar system, from the discovery more than two hundred years ago of planets beyond Saturn to the launch in 2006 of NASA’s New Horizons space mission to study Pluto’s environs.

Calculating Women

Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician who calculated the reentry trajectory for John Glenn’s Mercury Friendship 7 mission as he returned from orbiting the earth, 1962

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

by Margot Lee Shetterly

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars

by Dava Sobel
Although advances in science and technology are often portrayed as the work of solitary men—for example, Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein—science has always been a collective enterprise, dependent on many individuals who work behind the scenes. This has become increasingly true as more scientists work on large research projects funded by governments and staffed by hundreds of technicians. Yet despite the collaborative nature of science, for too much of its history the work of women and scientists of color was exploited, deemed rudimentary, and unacknowledged.

After Einstein: The Dark Mysteries

A computer simulation of the collision of two black holes, which merged about 1.3 billion years ago to form a single black hole sixty-two times the mass of the sun. The gravitational waves were detected last September by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which announced the discovery in February 2016.

Black Hole: How an Idea Abandoned by Newtonians, Hated by Einstein, and Gambled on by Hawking Became Loved

by Marcia Bartusiak

The Hunt for Vulcan: ...And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe

by Thomas Levenson
Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid     in night:     God said, Let Newton be!—and       all was light. It did not last: the devil, shouting     “Ho.     Let Einstein be,” restored the       status quo. —Alexander Pope, with a continuation by J.C. Squire On Thursday, November 25, …

Revelations from Outer Space

The Horsehead Nebula in the constellation of Orion, about 1,500 light years from the earth, as seen from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii; from Michael Benson’s book Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle (2009)

Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time

by Michael Benson

You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes—Photographs from the International Space Station

by Chris Hadfield
On Valentine’s Day in 1990, more than four billion miles from earth, in the vast emptiness and silence of space, the camera shutter of the spacecraft Voyager 1 snapped rapidly, taking sixty frames of photographs in quick succession. Among them was an image that has become one of the most famous pictures ever taken from space. In it, the earth is but a tiny speck, caught amid scattered rays of sunlight.

NYR DAILY

The New Beyond

Pillinger Point, on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, Mars, May 14, 2014; detail from a panoramic photograph taken by NASA's Opportunity rover

Several exciting discoveries in the cosmos, including close-up photos of Pluto by the New Horizons space probe and new evidence for water flows on Mars, are helping us reframe many age-old questions. Is there life elsewhere? Are we alone? These questions have finally leaped from popular speculation to the realm of scientific scrutiny.