Croswell skillfully leads the reader through a detailed survey of current thinking on the Milky Way. He reveals, for example, that the Milky Way probably formed as many earlier galaxies smashed together; that many of the elements on the Earth, including the iron and oxygen that course through our bodies, were cast into space by exploding supernovae; that in all likelihood there is a massive black hole at the center of the Galaxy, with a million times more mass than the Sun; and that the Milky Way’s oldest stars preserve the elements created in the big bang, thereby serving as “fossils” of the universe’s earliest days.Along the way Croswell also introduces us to the brilliant astronomers who made some of these discoveries, and recounts the fierce debates that have driven forward our understanding of the Galaxy. Finally, and perhaps most important, we see how knowledge about the Galaxy in particular can give us tremendous insight into the origins of the universe as a whole.
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