Investigating the Origin of the Asteroids and Early Findings on Vesta

Historical Studies in Asteroid Research

  • Clifford J. Cunningham

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Clifford J. Cunningham
    Pages 1-50
  3. Clifford J. Cunningham
    Pages 51-66
  4. Clifford J. Cunningham
    Pages 67-86
  5. Clifford J. Cunningham
    Pages 87-117
  6. Clifford J. Cunningham
    Pages 119-128
  7. Clifford J. Cunningham
    Pages 129-171
  8. Clifford J. Cunningham
    Pages 173-188
  9. Clifford J. Cunningham
    Pages 189-214
  10. Clifford J. Cunningham
    Pages 215-225
  11. Clifford J. Cunningham
    Pages 227-239
  12. Clifford J. Cunningham
    Pages 241-255
  13. Clifford J. Cunningham
    Pages 257-294
  14. Clifford J. Cunningham
    Pages 295-331
  15. Back Matter
    Pages 333-399

About this book


This book assesses the origin of asteroids by analyzing the discovery of Vesta in 1807. Wilhelm Olbers, who discovered Vesta, suggested that the asteroids were the result of a primordial planet’s explosion. Cunningham studies that idea in detail through the writings of Sir David Brewster in Scotland, the era's most prolific writer about the asteroids. He also examines the link between meteorites and asteroids, revealing a synergy between Ernst Chladni, Romantic symbolism, and the music of the spheres.

Vesta was a lightning rod for controversy throughout the nineteenth century with observers arguing over its size and color, and the astounding notion that it was self-luminous. It was also a major force for change, as new methods in the field of celestial mechanics were developed to study the orbital perturbations it is subject to. A large selection of private correspondence and scientific papers complete the first comprehensive historical study of Vesta ever published.

With a synoptic look at the four asteroids, Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta, Cunningham provides a valuable resource on asteroid origins and explains how they were integrated into the newly revealed solar system of the early nineteenth century.  


19th Century Astronomy Asteroid Belt Discovery Asteroids in Solar System Celestial Mechanics of Asteroids Discovery of Vesta First Asteroid Foreign Astronomy Historical Astronomy Vesta Discovery

Authors and affiliations

  • Clifford J. Cunningham
    • 1
  1. 1.Ft. LauderdaleUSA

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer International Publishing AG 2017
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Physics and Astronomy
  • Print ISBN 978-3-319-58117-0
  • Online ISBN 978-3-319-58118-7
  • Buy this book on publisher's site