Mapping the Heavens
Priyamvada Natarajan
Yale University Press, April 2016

This book provides a tour of the “greatest hits” of cosmological discoveries—the ideas that reshaped our universe over the past century. The cosmos, once understood as a stagnant place, filled with the ordinary, is now a universe that is expanding at an accelerating pace, propelled by dark energy and structured by dark matter. Priyamvada Natarajan, our guide to these ideas, is someone at the forefront of the research—an astrophysicist who literally creates maps of invisible matter in the universe. She not only explains for a wide audience the science behind these essential ideas but also provides an understanding of how radical scientific theories gain acceptance.

The formation and growth of black holes, dark matter halos, the accelerating expansion of the universe, the echo of the big bang, the discovery of exoplanets, and the possibility of other universes—these are some of the puzzling cosmological topics of the early twenty-first century. Natarajan discusses why the acceptance of new ideas about the universe and our place in it has never been linear and always contested even within the scientific community. And she affirms that, shifting and incomplete as science always must be, it offers the best path we have toward making sense of our wondrous, mysterious universe.

About the Author

Priyamvada Natarajan is Professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University. A theoretical astrophysicist, Natarajan researches gravitational lensing and black holes. Her work involves mapping the distribution of dark matter in the universe, observing how light bends around unseen objects while en‑route to Earth from distant galaxies. In addition to her academic position at Yale, she currently holds the Sophie and Tycho Brahe Professorship of the Dark Cosmology Centre, Niels Bohr Institute, at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She is the recipient of many awards and honors including, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, and a fellowship at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. She is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the Explorers Club. On the Advisory Board of NOVA ScienceNow, Natarajan is actively engaged in public outreach and in developing strategies to enhance numerical and scientific literacy. In addition to publishing in scientific journals such as Science and Nature, she has written for The Hindustan Times, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and Discover Magazine, and her work has been featured in publications including Science News, New Scientist, Sky and Telescope, and The New York Review of Books.