Almost 60 years after her retirement in 1951, why is the life of Ruby Payne-Scott of
significance to us? She was a unique scientist working in one of the first major solar
radio astronomy groups after the end of World War II. This fortunate circumstance
was due to the experience she gained working on radar at the major Australian
laboratory during World War II. Payne-Scott was a pioneer Australian scientist
leading the charge for equality of women in the work place.
The history of science shows many close connections between physics and
astronomy. It is well known that a number of physical laws evolved from a base
of astronomical observations. For example, Kepler observed and, later Newton
derived, the laws of gravitation while studying the motion of planets and their
satellites. The existence of thermonuclear energy was solidly established when
it explained the energy balance of the Sun and stars.
Astronomy is certainly the oldest science and that of astronomer probably the
oldest profession. This second assertion is notoriously debatable, but one can safely
assume that in a primitive civilized society the (remunerated) shaman or priest had to
be an astronomer to be credible.
A multitude of measurement units exist within astronomy, some of which are
unique to the subject, causing discrepancies that are particularly apparent when
astronomers collaborate with other disciplines in science and engineering. The
International System of Units (SI) is based on a set of seven fundamental units
from which other units may be derived. However, many astronomers are reluctant
to drop their old and familiar systems. This handbook demonstrates the ease with
which transformations from old units to SI units may be made.
This textbook is intended as an introduction to the physics of solar and stellar
coronae, emphasizing kinetic plasma processes. It is addressed to observational
astronomers, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates without a background
in plasma physics.
Coronal physics is today a vast field with many different aims and goals. Sorting
out the really important aspects of an observed phenomenon and using the
physics best suited for the case is a formidable problem.
THERE was a ripple of chimes through the frosty air as Catherine Murchison turned from King's Walk into
Lombard Street, and saw the moon shining white and clear between the black parapets and chimney-stacks of
the old houses. St. Antonia's steeple was giving the hour of three, and a babel of lesser tongues answered from
the silence of the sleeping town. Hoar-frost glittered on the cypresses that stood in a garden bounding the
road, and the roofs were like silver under the hard, moonlit sky.
Astronomy is the most ancient science humans have practiced on Earth.
It is a science of extremes and of large numbers: extremes of time – from the
big bang to infinity –, of distances, of temperatures, of density and masses,
of magnetic field, etc.