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'Receding Horizons' is the story of the science of the universe. Professor George Abell, Chairman of the Astronomy Department at the University of California, Los Angeles, embarks on the discoveries that have led to the theory of the expanding universe, which has found observational and theoretical support in the present Century. We owe our modern science to the Greeks, yet their cosmology relies on mystical gods; it is not until Herschel mapped the heavens in the eighteenth Century that observational cosmology began, and with the advent of modern large reflectors such as those on top of Mount Wilson, California, the vast universe of galaxies was discovered. By using variable stars, the galaxies were established at great distances and their spectra showed them to be moving, receding one from another at enormous speeds. With the expansion of the universe came the question of its future and origin, for if the universe were evolving where and when did it begin and how will it end? By careful examination of both the distribution of galaxies and the most distant galaxies are moving away from us, predictions can be made. Either the universe will go on expanding forever or it will reach a stage of maximum expansion and then begin contracting and collapsing on itself. Current opinion is for the 'once only' universe that started at some instant in the past and will go on expanding forever. If this is so, then how did the universe begin, and what influence does beginning exert on the fate of the universe? By accident the 'hot big bang' origin was discovered by radio astronomers, who detected that 'whisper' from deep space that has become ultra red shifted waves from the fireball which marked the beginnings of the universe. These three discoveries, the uniformly distributed universe of galaxies, their red shift that tells us of the expansion and the hot 'fireball' origin of the universe are the achievements of modern cosmology; it has been the work of countless astronomers and physicists and it is the greatest success of modern science this century.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: S354, Understanding space and time
Item code: S354; Comp2
First transmission date: 1979
Published: 1979
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:49:03
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Track listing:
track listing for this programme
Track 1 Receding horizons
Producer: Andrew Crilly
Contributors: George Abell; Paul Vaughan
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Cosmological principle; Galaxies; Gravitation; Herschel; Hubble; Isaac Newton; Milky Way; Nova; Theory of Relativity; Variable stars
Master spool number: HOU5284
Production number: FOUS399X
Videofinder number: 2051
Available to public: no