Three new books in the “Espace des sciences” collection from Apogée editions

The solar system, the life and death of the stars and From the Big Bang to today is simultaneously published by Apogée editions, in the popularization collection “Espace des sciences”. Priscilla Abraham and Bruno Mauguin use their synthesis skills to make complex cosmological materials accessible to as many people as possible.

That was 13.7 billion years ago. The universe has concentrated in a point so limited that the temperature there has reached several billion billion degrees. It suddenly expanded in an explosion thought to be primordial, before temperatures dropped and gravity manifested itself. This genesis is told to us very clearly by Priscilla Abraham and Bruno Mauguin in From the Big Bang to today, which takes the side of narrating the evolution of the universe according to a cosmic calendar, where one second corresponds to 500 years. A time scale that refers the extinction of the dinosaurs on Earth (- 65 million years) to December 29 at noon and the emergence of hominids (- 6 to 7 million years) to December 31 at noon. 8 p.m. What relativizes our place in the big story.

Other data encourage humility. This is how the authors teach us The solar system that our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains between 200 and 400 billion stars. Although the Sun represents 99.87% of the total mass of a system in which it occupies a central place, it is, in an almost insignificant way, only one of these countless stars. And all the more so since there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe, each containing an average of 100 billion stars. Ultimately, we know very little about this staggering monster. The Milky Way, on the other hand, is much more familiar to us. It consists of telluric planets characterized by a solid crust of rock (like Earth) and gaseous planets that cannot be walked on or deposit material (like Jupiter). All circulate on lanes called lanes.

The solar system goes straight to the point and explains what the Earth’s immediate environment consists of. The Sun is a star that has been shining for five billion years and whose diameter is 109 times the diameter of our planet. It is a huge ball of gas, essentially composed of hydrogen brought to very high temperatures and subjected to considerable pressures, which is converted into helium by a thermonuclear fusion reaction. Mercury is a desolate world devoid of life. Its surface is similar to the surface of the Moon: it is full of meteor craters. It is up to 430 degrees during the day and -180 degrees at night. Venus has an atmospheric pressure about 90 times that of Earth and consists mainly of carbon dioxide, making its atmosphere unbreathable. Acid rain, high-altitude thunderstorms, and a greenhouse effect that maintains average ground temperatures of about 450 degrees combine. Mars is an icy desert swept by fierce winds that can reach up to 400 km/h and cause huge sandstorms. Its atmosphere is mainly carbon dioxide, and it has no ozone layer to absorb harmful UV rays. Liquid would have circulated there, and it is therefore possible that during its history the Red Planet experienced favorable conditions for the development of some form of life.

The same extension works apply to The life and death of stars. The authors recall that the understanding of the life cycle of stars goes back to the observations of the Chinese in the 11th century, and in particular at the site of the Crab Nebula. Galaxies contain an average of 100 billion stars. The latter “lights up” when the material is excited, a movement initiated by a shock wave or by sudden heating. From Box’s bullet to nuclear fusion reactions that release enormous amounts of energy, Priscilla Abraham and Bruno Mauguin tell a fascinating cosmic epic. And in passing, they have the opposite view of several received ideas. One of them stipulates, for example, that the most massive stars would be the ones that last the longest. Another leads us to believe that the star is a frozen system, while its balance may be disturbed, which would then require a structural readjustment. Spectroscopy, a long description of the death of the Sun (with expansion phases where its diameter continues to grow until it forms a red supergiant), the making of matter (we are all made up of the remains of exploded stars) complete this read rich in lessons and accessible to the layman.

Also see

Finally, From the Big Bang to today takes up the major events in the creation of the universe and the world as we know it. The first galaxies appear 600 to 700 million years after the Big Bang. They were then closer to each other, but also smaller than today. They actually merged over time, forming clusters of multiple galaxies. This is how our Milky Way is formed by five small, previously independent entities. The first signs of biological activity date back 3.85 billion years. These would be RNA molecules with the ability to replicate without protein supply. 530 million years ago, a great diversity of marine animal species appeared. Then the first land plants 475 million years ago and the first reptiles 315 million years ago. In the company of the two authors, we thus trace a cosmic calendar through which certain interactions occur. Matter, elements, life follow long and complex processes originating from a seminal explosion. A phenomenon that is clearly reflected in the three books, which usefully complement each other and offer valuable documentation on cosmological studies.

The solar system, The life and death of stars and From the Big Bang to today
Priscilla Abraham and Bruno Mauguin
Apogee, August 2022, 72 pages

Leave a Comment