Welcome to the Universe Book Summary - Welcome to the Universe Book explained in key points
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Welcome to the Universe summary

Neil deGrasse Tyson

An Astrophysical Tour

4.8 (314 ratings)
37 mins
10 key ideas
Audio & text

What is Welcome to the Universe about?

Welcome to the Universe (2016) is a mind-blowing and breathtaking introduction to astrophysics, based on the popular course the three authors cotaught at Princeton University. It takes everyone –⁠ even the nonscience-minded –⁠ on a trip through the known universe, stopping to examine stars, galaxies, black holes, and more, all while presenting fascinating theories regarding time travel, the big bang, and the prospect of life in other galaxies.

About the Author

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium, and host of the podcast StarTalk. He also hosted the popular PBS television show NOVA ScienceNow and received the US National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal in 2015 for his contributions to popular science.

Michael A. Strauss is a professor of astrophysics at Princeton University. He’s known for his expertise on star evolution, discoveries of distant quasars, and work in mapping galaxy distribution.

  1. Richard Gott is a professor of astrophysics at Princeton University. He’s proposed several theories of time travel and made notable contributions to cosmology, general relativity, and Doomsday theory.
Table of Contents

    Welcome to the Universe
    summarized in 10 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 10

    Getting situated.

    Okay, first stop. Lower Earth orbit.

    Before heading out any further, we need to get you situated with our starting point – Earth. Our little blue marble of life. For many of you, this will seem like your very first trip to space. But in reality, you’ve been rocketing through space all your lives. Because, realize it or not, we’re all living on a rock moving roughly 100,000 kilometers per hour through our solar system. And in that sense, Earth already is a kind of spaceship.

    Now, looking at Earth from space, I’m going to ask that everyone tilt their heads just slightly to the right. That’s it. It’s only now that you’re actually looking at our planet head-on. This is because as Earth orbits the sun, it’s perpetually tilted at an angle of 23.5°. As we orbit the sun once a year, Earth keeps a constant tilt, maintaining the exact same orientation for the entire journey.

    Alright, now look toward the edges of Earth. See that creeping shadow? Well as you might have guessed, that’s the night beginning for those parts of Earth. But, what you might not realize, unless you’re looking at Earth head-on, is that it’s always exactly 50 percent covered in sunlight and exactly 50 percent in darkness. Forget daylight saving time, long winters, summer solstices, that’s just where you happen to be located on this tilt. People in Antarctica can see daylight for 24 hours in December . . . but Earth as a whole? Without exception, it’s always 50/50.

    And it’s this very tilt that dictates everything we know about the sky. From the stars we see, to the path of the sun. Many people believe that high noon means the sun is directly overhead. But, in fact, if you’re looking from the US, you’ll never, at no point of day or year, experience the sun directly over your head. It just doesn’t happen. Because in the US, you’re always witnessing the sun at an angle. This also means you’ll never see all the same star constellations that the Southern Hemisphere does, and vice versa.

    So, if you can all untilt your necks . . . now we’re situated and looking straight ahead. It’s time to start our tour through space at our solar system’s crown jewel – the sun.

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    Who should read Welcome to the Universe

    • Star-gazers who want to explore the far reaches of the universe
    • Budding astrophysicists and astronomers
    • Anyone curious about space, physics, and time

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