Dust in Galaxies

Dust in Galaxies

David A Williams, Cesare Cecchi-Pestellini


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Without interstellar dust, the Universe as we see it today would not exist. Yet at first we considered this vital ingredient merely an irritating fog that prevented a clear view of the stars and nebulae in the Milky Way and other galaxies. We now know that interstellar dust has essential roles in the physics and chemistry of the formation of stars and planetary systems, the creation of the building blocks of life, and in the movement of those molecules to new planets. This is the story in this book.

After introducing the materials this interstellar dust is made of, the authors explain the range of sizes and shapes of the dust grains in the Milky Way galaxy and the life cycle of dust, starting from the origins of dust grains in stellar explosions through to their turbulent destruction. Later on we see the variety of processes in interstellar space involving dust and the events there that cause the dust to change in ways that astronomers and astrobiologists can use to indirectly observe those events.

This book is written for a general audience, concentrating on ideas rather than detailed mathematics and chemical formulae, and is the first time interstellar dust has been discussed at an accessible level.