Prof. Michael Rowan-Robinson


m.rrobinson@ null

Phone: +44 (0)20 7594 7543
Fax: +44 (0)20 759 47772
Room 1003b, Level 10
Imperial College London, Astrophysics, Blackett Laboratory, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2AZ, UK

Night vision

exploring the infrared universe

Michael Rowan-Robinson


Cambridge University Press, 2013

ISBN 978-107-02476-2 (hbk), 251 pages


Includes 31 colour plates, 61 black and white figures, extensive notes and

bibliography (including all papers on infrared astronomy with more than

200 citations), a glossary of technical terms, and an index.



1. Introduction

2. William Herschel opens up the invisible universe

3. 1800-1950: Slow progress - the Moon, planets, bright stars and the

discovery of interstellar dust

4. Dying stars shrouded in dust and stars being born: the emergence of infrared

astronomy in the 1960s and 1970s

5. Birth of submillimtre astronomy: clouds of dust and molecules in the Galaxy

6. The Cosmic Microwave Background, echo of the Big Bang

7. The Infrared Astronomical Satellite and th eopening up of extragalctic infrared

astronomy: starbursts and active galactic nuclei

8. The Cosmic Background Explorer and the ripples, the Wilkinson Microwave

Anisotropy Probe and dark energy

9. Giant ground-based near-infrared and submillimetre telescopes

10. The infrared Space Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope: the star-

formation history of the universe

11. Our solar system's dusty debris disk and the search for exoplanets

12. The future: pioneering space missions and giant ground-based telescopes.


'I have tried to write the whole story of infrared astronomy,

from the discovery of infrared radiation by William Herschel

in 1800 through to the present day, to the discoveries being

made by the space mission named after Herschel.  I wanted

to make this story accessible to the general reader with some

interest in science but no scientific background. At the same

time I wanted to make it a full and accurate account.  Having

lived and worked through the great period of infrared astronomy,

from the 1960s to the present, I know many of the major figures

whose work is described here, and I wanted to do them justice.'


Michael Rowan-Robinson

May 2013


Reviews of 'Night Vision'


'Night Vision is a fascinating and authoritative account of the dramatically different universe revealed when we observe the sky at infrared and submillimeter wavelengths.  In a very readable style, often conversational and punctuated with anecdotes, Rowan-Robinson traces the history of the subject, from its discovery right up to the present day and future plans.  The book is enlivened with many well-chosen graphics and images of pioneering scientists.  Extensive quotations from the scientific literatire, as well as personal accounts of some major events in which the author has participated, give insight into the agonies and ecstasies of exploration at the boundaries of human nowledge.  The volume will be valuable to a wide range of audiences ranging from the casual reader interested in science yo students, research scientists and historians of science.'


Michael G. Hauser, Astronomer Emeritus, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore



'Infrared astronomy is, in some senses, similar to the kind of astronomy that amateurs can do in their back graden.  But in other ways it is vastly different.  As this book explores, the field has developed hugely over recent decades, but has a much longer history than many might expect.

Night Vision begins with the discovery of infrared radiation by Sir William Herschel and runs through to the latest discoveries from current missions, including his namesake, the Herschel Space Observatory.  The focus is on the scientific aspects, though there is a brief foray into the technological breakthroughs that have led to today's impressive missions.  On the way, author Michael Rowan-Robinson covers an impressive range of scientific concepts, ranging from the processes leading to the formation of stars, to the earliest light in the Universe.

With over 40 years of experience to draw on, Rowan-Robinson is able to give a more personal view of the topic than many, and also includes accounts from key players to bring the human side of scientific discovery to life.  Although some of the language is technical, it is well introduced and, with the exception of a few acronyms, should be accessible to most people with an interest in physics and astronomy.

With such a wide remit and just 250 pages, some of the subjects are necessarily skipped over in the main text, although comprehensive notes provide additional detail and further reading.  Night Vision is densely packed and makes an excellent introduction to infrared astronomy, particularly to those with some knoweldge of astronomy in general.'


Chris North,  BBC Sky at Night magazine, October 2013


'Astronomer Rowan-Robinson is intimately acquainted with astronomical investigations done in the infrared (beyond visible) region of the spectrum, having made several important discoveries himself. Here, he reviews the history of infrared from its discovery by William Herschel in 1800, to the detection of infrared absorption by the Earth's atmosphere in the solar spectrum by John Herschel in 1840, and the detection of infrared radiation from the moon by Piazzi Smyth in 1856.' M. K. Hemenway, Choice 

'Nicely illustrated and presented.' Astronomy Now