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Big Picture Science

400 years ago, some ideas about the cos­mos were too scan­dalous to men­tion. When the Domini­can fri­ar Gior­dano Bruno sug­gest­ed that plan­ets exist­ed out­side our Solar Sys­tem, the Catholic Inqui­si­tion had him arrest­ed, jailed, and burned at the stake for heresy.

Today, we have evi­dence of thou­sands of plan­ets orbit­ing oth­er stars. Our dis­cov­ery of extra­so­lar plan­ets has dra­mat­i­cal­ly changed ideas about the pos­si­bil­i­ty for life else­where in the universe. 

Mod­ern the­o­ries about the exis­tence of the ghost­ly par­ti­cles called neu­tri­nos or of col­lapsed stars with unfath­omable grav­i­ty (black holes), while sim­i­lar­ly incen­di­ary, didn’t prompt arrest, of course. Neu­tri­nos and black holes were arrest­ing ideas because they came decades before we had the means to prove their existence.

Hear about sci­en­tif­ic ideas that came before their time and why extra­so­lar plan­ets, neu­tri­nos, and black holes are now found on the fron­tiers of astro­nom­i­cal research.