Key Cosmology Experiments: Original Papers-Full Text. Part 1

Andromeda Galaxy M31

Andromeda Galaxy M31

One hundred years ago this Spring, the first article on galaxy Spectral-line Redshifts was published by Vesto Slipher which dramatically changed cosmology.

However, few have ever read this original paper, or the several other articles and books considered cosmology landmarks of past century.

These papers are so rarely read perhaps because to find them, it often takes quite a bit of effort and expense.  One sad result is that many of these important papers are seriously misunderstood; particularly about which topics were and were not actually discussed, and whether the papers reported on experiments or observations or were merely theorizing.

To help you clarify this for yourself here are a few primary cosmology papers for your intellectual appetite and entertainment.

Part 1 covers  Spectral Line RedshiftGalaxy Radial VelocitySpace CurvatureUniverse ExpansionLarge-scale Structure – Walls, Voids, Sheets and FilamentsPlasma CosmologyCosmic Microwave Radiation, ObservationalCosmic Microwave Radiation, AnalysisCosmic Microwave Radiation, Whole Sky MapNucleosysnthesisGalaxy Rotation Curves Interpreted as Missing Mass and Dark Matter, Steady State modelQuasi-Steady State modelOlbers Paradox, and General Relativity.

Redshift, Spectral Line:

The radial velocity of the Andromeda Nebula,” Slipher, Vesto (1913)

Even earlier, in 1895, a co-founder of Astrophysical Journal, James Edward Keeler, obtained redshifts for Saturn’s rings (A Spectroscopic Proof of the Meteoric Constitution of Saturn’s Rings) — essentially the first use of Doppler effect to measure astronomical object velocity.

Hubble's Original Redshift Graph

Hubble’s Original Redshift Graph

Galaxy Radial Velocity:

A Relation Between Distance and Radial Velocity Among Extra-Galactic Nebulae,” Hubble, Edwin (1929) Note how this paper does not discuss Universe Expansion. (Hubble in part, used Slipher’s high quality 1913 redshift data.)

Space Curvature:

O KPИBИ ЗHE ПPOCTPAHCTBA (On the Curvature of Space),” Friedmann, Alexander (1922) manuscript in original Russian. Analysis; not an experiment.

On the Curvature of Space,” Friedmann, Alexander Translated into English, Friedmann Archives

Universe Expansion:

Un Univers homogène de masse constante et de rayon croissant rendant compte de la vitesse radiale des nébuleuses extra-galactiques,” Lemaître, Abbe’ Georges (1927 in the original French) Analysis; this is not an experiment. It is only mathematical speculations that step into physics and drew Einstein’s retort “Your calculations are correct, but your physics are abominable.”

A homogeneous Universe of constant mass and increasing radius accounting for the radial velocity of extra-galactic nebulae,” Lemaître, Abbe’ Georges (1931, Translated by Lemaître himself.) This paper does discuss Universe Expansion. I particularly enjoy reading the last two paragraphs.

Redshift Survey CfA "Stickman"

Redshift Survey CfA “Stickman”

Large-scale Structure – Walls, Voids, Sheets and Filaments:

A slice of the universe,” de Lapparent, V.; Geller, M. J.; Huchra, J. P. (1986) The first three-dimensional visualization of filaments, voids and other large scale structure. This is better than mere Nobel Prize caliber groundbreaking work – this paper gets my vote for the most illuminating cosmology research of the past century.

Plasma Cosmology:

Matter-Antimatter Annihilation and Cosmology,” Alfvén, Hannes (1963) While I can’t find this book or its core work online for free, the next book covers Alfvén’s Plasma Cosmology and can be partially read online.

Cosmic Plasma,” Alfvén, Hannes (1981)

Cosmic Microwave Radiation, Observational:

Cosmic Microwave Spectrum

Cosmic Microwave Spectrum

 “A Measurement of Excess Antenna Temperature at 4,080 Megacycles per Second,” Penzias and Wilson (1965) Note how this does not report any hint of a “background” separate from what is now considered foreground microwave radiation, perhaps because this work reported only a single data point: Excess energy at 7.35 centimeters wavelength (though it was reported as uniform across the entire sky at that energy and physical location). Notably, this data point is not at all close to the current plotted energy curve peak which is at about two millimeters wavelength.

Cosmic Microwave Radiation, Analysis:

Cosmic Blackbody radiation,” Dicke, Peebles, Roll, Wilkinson (1965) Analysis only; not an experiment, no new data reported. First mention and speculation of microwave “background” and blackbody spectrum.

Cosmic Microwave Radiation, Whole Sky Map:

Deep-Space Measurements of the Microwave Background Anisotropy – First Results of the Relikt Experiment,” Strukov & Skulachev (1984) This 8 mm wavelength satellite experiment looked for and found microwave anisotropy and a dipole (a decade before COBE), but no quadrupole.


The Origin of Chemical Elements,” Alpher, Bethe, Gamow (1948 “spinning universe”)

Synthesis of the Elements in Stars,” Burbidge, M., Burbidge, G., Fowler, Hoyle (1957)

Galaxy Rotation vs Radius: A= Calculated, B=Measured

Galaxy Rotation vs Radius: A= Calculated, B=Measured

Galaxy Rotation Curves Interpreted as Missing Mass and Dark Matter:

Neutral hydrogen in M 33 and M 101,” Volders, Louise M. J. S. (1959) “Rotation of the Andromeda Nebula from a Spectroscopic Survey of Emission Regions,” Rubin, Vera C.; Ford, W. Kent, Jr. (1970) “Die Rotverschiebung von extragalaktischen Nebeln,” Zwicky, F., Helvetica Physica Acta, Vol. 6 (1933)

On the Masses of Nebulae and of Clusters of Nebulae,” Zwicky, F., Astrophysical Journal, vol. 86, (1937)  (It is hard to ignore Zwicky’s many disclaimers about how its essentially impossible to even estimate a Cluster’s mass or component velocities.)

Steady State model:

Astronomy and Cosmogony,” Jeans, James, (1928) Steady-State Theory of the Expanding Universe, Bondi, H.; Gold, T. (1948)

Quasi-Steady State model:

A quasi-steady state cosmological model with creation of matter,” Hoyle, Burbidge, G., and Narlikar (1993)

Olbers Paradox:

(Note: This is not an original paper, as there is strong disagreement on the origin of this idea which may have originated in the 1500s. It is a recent overview paper, but does not include any references of more than 50 years age. )

Olbers’s paradox and the spectral intensity of the extragalactic background light,” Wesson

General Relativity:

(All Big Bang models are derived directly from General Relativity’s Field Equations using Differential Geometry.)

Die Feldgleichungen der Gravitation, Einstein (1915) The defining paper of General Relativity with the final Field Equations in the original German/Deutsch. Analysis; this is not an experiment.

The Field Equations of Gravitation (translated to English)

A simple overview of Relativity by Einstein, translated by Robert William Lawson “Relativity: The Special and General Theory

Complete list of Einstein papers

Infinite Static Universe was the “Standard Model” until roughly 1950.

At this point I feel it important to remember that for the centuries after Ptolemy’s geocentric idea, up until Lemaitre’s Expansion paper the “Standard Model” for Cosmology was the “Infinite Static Universe.” This was not Einstein’s closed and finite static universe, but a Static Universe infinite in space and time.

Recent Cosmology/Astrophysics papers:

Recent Astrophysics papers on

Published on: Feb 16, 2013

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