A Bigger Picture Unfolds

Part of the Astronomers' Universe book series (ASTRONOM)


Galileo’s small telescope showed that the Milky Way was composed of a multitude of stars that were too faint to be resolved individually with the unaided eye. Unlike the planets, which when magnified through a telescope displayed a small but distinct disk, the stars remained as point-like objects. This, along with the fact that the stars displayed no discernable parallax through the instruments in use in the seventeenth century, suggested that the stars were at a truly unimaginable distance from the Solar System. French philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) conveys a vivid sense of the human reaction to this new-found scale of the Universe when in his Pensées (Thoughts, 1670) he writes of a man without God: “engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant and which know me not… The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.”


Solar System Cosmic Microwave Background Spiral Nebula Star Cluster Planetary Nebula 

Copyright information

© Springer New York 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CornwallUK
  2. 2.KentUK

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