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Galaxies are the building blocks of the Universe: standing like islands in space, each is made up of many hundreds of millions of stars in which the chemical elements are made, around which planets form, and where on at least one of those planets intelligent life has emerged. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is just one of several hundred million other galaxies that we can now observe through our telescopes. Yet it was only in the 1920s that we realised that there is more to the Universe than the Milky Way, and that there were in fact other 'islands' out there. In many ways, modern astronomy began with this discovery, and the story of galaxies is therefore the story of modern astronomy. Since then, many exciting discoveries have been made about our own galaxy and about those beyond: how a supermassiveblack hole lurks at the centre of every galaxy, for example, how enormous forces are released when galaxies collide, how distant galaxies provide a window on the early Universe, and what the formation of young ga
Oxford University Press
March 27, 2008
About the author
John Gribbin has a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Cambridge and is one of the best-known current popular science writers. His many books include the acclaimed The Universe: A Biography, In Search of Schrodinger's Cat, and Science: A History. He has written for all the UK broadsheet newspapers, regularly contributes to radio and television documentaries and debates, and also writes science fiction novels. He formerly worked for Nature and New Scientist, and is presently a Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex.