In this provocative book, radio astronomer and author Gerrit L. Verschuur describes the phenomena of scientific curiosity and discovery by following the exciting story of interstellar matter. The discovery of "stuff between the stars" was the result of decades of work by hundreds of astronomers, and the evolving recognition of its existence has profoundly changed the way we view the Universe. Verschuur begins with E.E. Barnard, who puzzled for a quarter century over the interpretation of photographs of dark patches between the stars. Verschuur then traces the tortuous path to acceptance of the existence of interstellar matter. He shares with us the thrill of discovery that motivates astronomers, the use of metaphors and modeling by scientist, and other tricks of the astronomical trade. Finally, we learn about the modern study of interstellar matter: the discovery of complex organic molecules between the stars and how they may have seeded the early earth with the precursors for life, new insights into star formation, the structure of the Milky Way and the elusive interstellar magnetic field. More than a history, Interstellar Matters is a detective story that evokes the excitement and serendipity of science against the background of a century of shared effort by the world community of astronomers.
From the reviews: "I can't imagine anyone interested in astronomy who won't enjoy this book - it's chocked full of science, personalities and insights. We are products of the stuff between the stars - Verschuur tells the fascinating story of how its existence was discovered. Interstellar Matters is his best book, I think. It's certainly one of the best astronomy popularizations I've read." (Leif J. Robinson, Sky & Telescope)