print-friendly version

Cosmology: The Origin, Evolution & Ultimate Fate of the Universe

An Introductory Resource Guide for College Instructors

September 2012

PDF file download pdf version

NASA missions, educational projects around the country, and cosmologists themselves have produced a wide range of materials that astronomy instructors (and their students) can use to learn about the latest developments in modern cosmology. Too often, however, these materials go unused because instructors are not familiar with them or don’t have them accessible at the time that they need them. This annotated guide is designed to highlight useful materials on the web and in print. It was produced in consultation with a panel of Astronomy 101 instruc­tors, who were interviewed about their teaching, and NASA education specialists, who suggested resources that may not have been well known.

Cosmology is an enormous field, and the number of educational resources can be a bit overwhelming. This guide includes only a sampling of non-technical materials that instructors around the U.S. have been using and are likely to have access to. Items were selected based on their level of difficulty (Astro 101 level and below), the likelihood of their being easily available for a college audience, and their potential usefulness for teaching and learning.

Compiled by Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College and Astronomical Society of the Pacific)

Coordination: NASA Astrophysics Science Education and Public Outreach Forum


Selected Web Sites on Modern Cosmology
Animations and Simulations on the Web
Selected Web Sites on the History of Cosmology
Selected Talks on Cosmology Available on the Web
Some Cosmology Lab Activities on the Web

Selected Books about Modern Cosmology
Selected Books about the History of Cosmology

Overview Articles
Articles about Dark Energy and Acceleration
Articles about Inflation
Articles about the Study of the Cosmic Microwave Background
Articles about Dark Matter
Articles about Other Specific Topics in Modern Cosmology
Articles about New Ideas in Cosmology
Articles about Understanding Cosmological Distances
A Few Articles about the History of Cosmology

Papers and Articles on Teaching Cosmology
Notes and Acknowledgements


Graphic Cosmic Timeline

A graphic cosmic timeline, from the Big Bang to the present day (Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team)

Selected Web Sites on Modern Cosmology

NASA Resources

NASA Universe Forum Big Bang Pages (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics): (brief, basic introduction to some of the key ideas)

Planck Mission Education and Outreach Materials (Caltech): (some basic, some more advanced, information, focusing on the cosmic microwave background radiation)

Universe 101: WMAP Mission Introduction to the Universe (NASA): (Concise primer on cosmological ideas from the WMAP mission team)

Dark Energy (Part of the Hubble Discoveries Series): (Flash-based multimedia tutorial on the discovery and meaning of dark energy; includes information on the origin and fate of universe)

Resources from Other Sources

Sean Carroll’s Cosmology Primer (Caltech): (Astrophysicists Carroll offers a non-technical site with brief overviews of many key topics in modern cosmology.)

Ned Wright’s Cosmology Tutorial (UCLA): (Astronomer Wright keeps a rich web site where he explains many ideas in cosmology using basic algebra and geometry.)

The Universe Adventure (Lawrence Berkeley Labs): (A flashy introduction to cosmology, designed for the public, but probably best read by those who already know a bit.)

Everyday Cosmology: (An educational website from the Carnegie Observatories with a timeline of cosmological discovery, background materials, and activities.)

Great Debates in Astronomy: (Between 1995 and 1998, astronomers Robert Nemiroff & Jerry Bonnell put together some cosmological debates in the same hall at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History (and along the same lines) as the Shapley-Curtis debate, with some of the leading cosmologists of our day; sometimes technical)

Runaway Universe (2000 NOVA TV series episode web site): (Focuses on the discovery of the acceleration of the expansion of the universe, using supernovae as distance indicators)

Brent Tully’s “How Big is the Universe?”: (This clear essay by a noted astronomer summarizes some key ideas in cosmologist and introduces the notion of the acceleration of the universe; it was written for the Runaway Universe program)

Matter-Energy piechart

A pie chart showing the mass and energy contents of the universe (Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team)

Animations and Simulations on the Web

NASA Resources

Jellybean Visual Analogy for the Fraction of Ordinary Matter in the Universe (Chandra animation):

The Chemical Universe (NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory page with an “astronomer’s version” of the periodic table, showing the cosmic abundances of elements): (Click on “Periodic table for astronomy”)

Cosmology Visualizations from the NASA Universe Forum: (A series of computer visualizations of the evolution and structure of the universe, available in a number of formats.)

WMAP Mission Concept Animations: (Brief animation showing evolution of the early universe and ideas associated with studying the cosmic microwave background)

The Cosmic Microwave Background on a Beach Ball (An inflatable globe with the full-sky image of the microwave background from the WMAP Mission):

Resources from Other Sources

Origin of the Elements (Flash movie from Don York’s group at the U. of Chicago):

Supercomputer simulations of the formation of structure in the universe by Andrey Kravstov:

Making Galaxies: (8-min movie on evolution and large-scale structure of galaxies from the Adler Planetarium Visualization Lab)

Dark Matter, First Stars: (Some beautiful short visualizations by Stanford’s Ralf Kaehler)

Einstein and Lemaitre

Albert Einstein and Georges Lemaitre (Credit: Wikimedia public domain images)

Selected Web Sites on the History of Cosmology

NASA Resources

Cosmic Times Project (from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center): (James Lochner and Barbara Mattson have compiled a rich resource of 20th-century cosmology history in the form of news reports on key events)

Shapley-Curtis Debate in 1920: The Scale of the Universe (a nice summary by Robert Nemiroff & Jerry Bonnell):

Resources from Other Sources

Cosmic Journey: A History of Scientific Cosmology (from the American Institute of Physics Center for the History of Physics): (a web “exhibit” on the history of our thinking, with images and biographies)

Edwin P. Hubble: 1938 Bruce Medalist (excellent guide to written and web resources about Hubble’s life & work by Joseph Tenn):

Brief Profile of Georges Lemaitre: (from the American Museum of Natural History, an excerpt from the book Cosmic Horizons)

Short Videos from the Texas Cosmology Center:

Nobel Prize Press Conference

The 2011 Nobel Prize winners in physics, Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt, and Adam Riess (Credit: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences/KVA TV)

Selected Talks on Cosmology Available on the Web

Marcia Bartusiak: “The Day We Found the Universe” (May 21, 2009; the distinguished science writer discusses Hubble’s work and the discovery of the expansion of the cosmos — one of the Observatory Night lectures at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics):

Roger Blandford (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center): “The Runaway Universe” (Oct. 26, 2004; public lecture on the discovery and meaning of cosmic acceleration and dark energy):

Patricia Burchat (Stanford University): “The Dark Side of the Universe: Dark Matter and Dark Energy” (May 20, 2009 in the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series):

Sean Carroll (Caltech): “The Origin of the Universe and the Arrow of Time” (Aug. 13, 2010; Google Tech Talk):

Alex Filippenko (University of California, Berkeley): “Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe” (October 4, 2006 in the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series):

John Mather (NASA Goddard): “From the Big Bang to the Nobel Prize” (Jan. 16, 2009): (His Nobel Prize talk from Dec. 8, 2006 can be found at:

Adam Reiss (STScI): “Dark Energy and the Fate of the Universe” (March 7, 2006 at the Space Telescope Science Institute):

Brian Schmidt’s non-technical Nobel Prize lecture about discovering the acceleration of the universe (Dec. 8, 2011); on the same page, you can find links to the lectures by Adam Riess and Saul Perlmutter, which connect to and follow his:

George Smoot’s Nobel Prize lecture (Dec. 8, 2006) on his work with the COBE Satellite:

Risa Wechsler (SLAC): “Dark Energy: What the? (or What Is the Universe Made of?)” (Oct. 30, 2007; public lecture on the nature of dark energy and the future of the universe):

Ned Wright (UCLA): “Observing the Origins of the Universe: A Century of Progress in Cosmology” (Oct. 28, 2008; UCLA Faculty Research Lecture):

“New Light on Dark Energy” (Apr. 25, 2011 panel on cosmology from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory):

Hubble Deep Field 2006

The Hubble Ultra-Deep Field image, showing some of the faintest galaxies ever observed. (Credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team)

Some Cosmology Lab Activities on the Web

NASA’s Universe Forum developed a series of “Modeling the Universe” activities which could be adapted to be part of a lab section or a class activity sequence.  Generally for grades 8 – 12. See:

Age of the Universe Activity (U. of Michigan): (This is a college-level lab in which students can see the effect of changing cosmological parameters and can compare the age of the universe in different models.)

Expanding Universe and Balloon Activity (U. of Washington): (A short college or high school level activity where you blow up a balloon on which you’ve drawn galaxies and derive a “Hubble Law for balloons.”)

Hubble’s Law Lab (shorter) (U. of Washington): (Derive Hubble’s constant from galaxy data and calculate the Hubble time; for university students.)

Hubble’s Law Lab (longer) (U. of Washington): (A longer version of the above lab, which includes more discussion of the nature of galaxies.)

The CLEA Project (Gettysburg College) has two college-level cosmology labs, one on the Hubble Law and one on the large-scale structure of the universe.  Go to: and click on the software button.


COBE Satellite

Artist’s illustration of the COBE satellite in orbit around the Earth (Credit: NASA)

Selected Books about Modern Cosmology

Adams, Fred & Laughlin, Greg The Five Ages of the Universe: Inside the Physics of Eternity. 1999, Free Press.  Two astronomers consider the distant past and far future.

Carroll, Sean From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time. 2010, Plume Books. On modern ideas of time as they relate to cosmology.

Duncan, Todd & Tyler, Craig Your Cosmic Context: An Introduction to Modern Cosmology. 2009, Addison-Wesley/Pearson.  The first non-majors textbook on cosmology done without a lot of math.

Ferris, Timothy The Whole Shebang: A State-of-the-Universe Report.  1997, Simon & Schuster. A distinguished science journalist reports on cosmology, as of the mid 1990’s.  Full of good analogies and profiles of the key scientists.

Greene, Brian The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality. 2004, Knopf.  An introduction to some of the physics ideas behind our modern picture of cosmology, by a physicist who is a master explainer.

Harrison, Edward Cosmology: The Science of the Universe, 2nd ed. 2000, Cambridge U. Press. This literate and thought-provoking introductory textbook, using some math, is one of the best guides to thinking about cosmology.

Impey, Chris How it Began: A Time Traveler’s Guide to the Universe. 2012, W. W. Norton.  A tour of the universe, moving outward from Earth and back in time, with well-written sections on modern cosmology.

Kirshner, Robert The Extravagant Universe: Exploding Stars, Dark Energy, and the Accelerating Universe. 2002, Princeton U. Press. A readable, personal recounting of the use of supernovae in the discovery of dark energy and our new view of the universe.

Livio, Mario The Accelerating Universe: Infinite Expansion, the Cosmological Constant, and the Beauty of the Cosmos. 2000, John Wiley. Beautifully written, layperson’s introduction to key cosmological ideas of our day.

Panek, Richard The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality. 2011, Houghton Mifflin. A journalist recounts the story of the discovery of the acceleration of the universe in this widely praised account.

Silk, Joseph The Big Bang, 3rd ed. 2001, W. H. Freeman.  A cogent introduction to the universe and our observations relating to it, for the intelligent layperson.

Singh, Simon Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe. 2004, HarperCollins. British physicist and science writer treats both the history and current status of cosmology; good for beginners.

Vilenkin, Alex Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes. 2006, Hill and Wang. A noted Russian cosmologist tells the story of the inflationary universe and multi-verses with verve and humor.

Vera Rubin

Astrophysicist Vera Rubin (Credit: Astronomical Society of the Pacific)

Selected Books about the History of Cosmology

Bartusiak, Marcia The Day We Found the Universe. 2009, Pantheon/Random House. Well-written, popular-level history of the discovery that galaxies exist and the beginnings of observational cosmology.

Ferris, Timothy Coming of Age in the Milky Way.  1988, Morrow. History of cosmological ideas, starting with the Greeks.

Frank, Adam About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang. 2011, Free Press. A history of human concepts of time as they relate to the universe at large.

Gleiser, Marcelo The Dancing Universe: From Creation Myths to the Big Bang. 1997, Dutton. A physicist chronicles the long history of human thinking about the origin of the universe.

Guth, A. The Inflationary Universe.  1997, Addison-Wesley.  One of the key scientists responsible for the inflationary hypothesis describes how it came about.

Kragh, Helge Conceptions of Cosmos: From Myths to the Accelerating Universe. 2007, Oxford U. Press. A scholarly history of cosmology.

Lightman, Alan & Brawer, Roberta Origins: The Lives and Worlds of Modern Cosmologists. 1990, Harvard U. Press. Interesting interviews with active researchers in the field.

Nussbaumer, Harry & Bieri, Lydia Discovering the Expanding Universe. 2009, Cambridge U. Press. Carefully researched, detailed history of both the theory and the observations that led to our modern day view.


Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit around the Earth (Credit: NASA)

Overview Articles

Kruesi, L. “Cosmology: 5 Things You Need to Know” in Astronomy, May 2007, p. 28. Five questions students often ask, and how modern cosmologists answer them.

Lineweaver, C. & Davis, T. “Misconceptions about the Big Bang” in Scientific American, Mar. 2005, p. 36.  Some basic ideas about modern cosmology clarified, using general relativity.

Pendrick, D. “Is the Big Bang in Trouble?” in Astronomy, Apr. 2009, p. 48.  This sensationally titled article is really more of a quick review of how modern ideas and observations are fleshing out the big bang hypothesis (and raising questions.)

Turner, M. “The Origin of the Universe” in Scientific American, Sep. 2009, p. 36. An introduction to modern cosmology.

Wakeley, S. “The Universe is in the Details” in Astronomy, Sep. 2006, p. 42. 5-page overview of how particle physics can assist cosmology.

Three potential fates of our Universe

Chart illustrating three potential fates of our Universe according to theories of dark energy (Credit: NASA/STScI)

Articles about Dark Energy and Acceleration

Appell, D. “Dark Forces at Work” in Scientific American, May 2008, p. 100. A profile of Nobel laureate Saul Perlmutter, the leader of one of the teams whose work with supernovae led to the discovery of the universe’s acceleration.

Carroll, S. “Dark Energy & the Preposterous Universe” in Sky & Telescope, Mar. 2005, p. 32.  7-page review; explains the observations and gives candidates for the source of dark energy.

Conselice, C. “The Universe’s Invisible Hand” in Scientific American, Feb. 2007, p. 34. An introduction to dark energy and the effects it has on the structure and evolution of the universe.

Krauss, L. & Turner, M. “A Cosmic Conundrum” in Scientific American, Sep. 2004, p. 70. On Einstein’s cosmological constant, the acceleration of the universe, and dark energy.

Kruesi, L. “Will Dark Energy Tear the Universe Apart?” in Astronomy, Feb. 2009, p. 34.  On how acceleration will determine the ultimate fate of the universe.

Nadis, S. “Tales from the Dark Side: Understanding Dark Energy” in Astronomy, Sep. 2006, p. 30.  Five page overview.

Nadis, S. “Dark Energy’s New Face: How Exploding Stars are Changing our View” in Astronomy, July 2012, p. 45. About our improving understanding of the complexities of Type Ia supernovae.

Panek, R. “Going Over to the Dark Side” in Sky & Telescope, Feb. 2009, p. 22.  A history of the observations and theories about dark energy.

Riess, A. & Turner, M. “From Slowdown to Speedup” in Scientific American, Feb. 2004, p. 62. On observations of supernovae and what they tell us about the acceleration of the universe’s expansion.

Illustration of how the nature of the early Universe led to the large-scale structure of the present-day Universe

An illustration of how the nature of the early Universe led to the large-scale structure of the present-day Universe (Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team).

Articles about Inflation

Bucher, M. & Spergel, D. “Inflation in a Low-Density Universe” in Scientific American, Jan. 1999, p. 62. On new and improved inflation theories.

Ferris, T. “Inflating the Cosmos” in Astronomy, July 1997, p. 38. On the inflationary hypothesis.

Guth, A. and Steinhardt, P. “The Inflationary Universe” in Scientific American, May 1984, p. 116. Early report from the scientist who came up with the idea.

Nadis, S. “Sizing Up Inflation” in Sky & Telescope, Nov. 2005, p. 32. Nice review of the origin and modern variants on the inflationary idea.

Cosmic Microwave Background

Pictures of three instruments, and their images of the Universe, that have revealed details of the Cosmic Microwave Background (Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team)

Articles about the Study of the Cosmic Microwave Background

Bennett, C., et al. “A Cosmic Cartographer” in Scientific American, Jan. 2001, p. 44. A brief preview of the MAP mission to examine details of the cosmic microwave background (later renamed WMAP).

Caldwell, R. & Kamionkowski, M. “Echoes from the Big Bang” in Scientific American, Jan. 2001, p. 38. On studying the details of the cosmic microwave background radiation.

Dorminey, B. “Europe’s Space Revolution” in Astronomy, Sep. 2008, p. 28. Preview of Herschel and Planck missions and how they will study the CMB.

Hishaw, G. & Naeye, R. “Decoding the Oldest Light in the Universe” in Sky & Telescope, May 2008, p. 18.  How the WMAP mission uses acoustic waves in the CMB to probe the structure of the early universe.

Hu, W. & White, M. “The Cosmic Symphony” in Scientific American, Feb. 2004, p. 44. On oscillations in the early universe and how we can learn about them from the microwave background. (On the Web at: )

Starkman, G. & Schwarz, D. “Is the Universe out of Tune?” in Scientific American, Aug. 2005, p. 48. On discrepancies between the theory and observations of the harmonics of the cosmic microwave background radiation.

Galaxy Cluster IE 0657-56

Composite visible light and x-ray enhanced color image of galaxy cluster IE 0657-56, which is used as strong evidence for the existence of dark matter. (Credit: Xray: NASA/CXC/CfA/M. Markevitch et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI; Magellan/U. Arizona/D. Clowe et al.; Lensing Map: NASA/STScI; ESO WFI; Magellan/U. Arizona/D. Clowe et al.)

Articles about Dark Matter

Bartusiak, M., et al. “The New Dark Age of Astronomy” in Astronomy, Oct. 1996, p. 36. A special issue focusing on the theory and observations of dark matter.

Kruesi, L. “What do We Really Know about Dark Matter?” in Astronomy, Nov. 2009, p. 28. Focuses on what dark matter could be and experiments to find out.

Galaxy cluster Abell 370

Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy cluster Abell 370 in which background galaxies are visible due to gravitational lensing. (Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble SM4 ERO Team, and ST-ECF)

Articles about Other Specific Topics in Modern Cosmology

Burgess, C. & Quevedo, F. “The Great Cosmic Roller Coaster Ride” in Scientific American, Nov. 2007, p. 52. On inflation, brane theory, multiverses, string theory and new ideas to help understand the properties of the cosmos.

Carroll, Sean “The Comic Origins of Time’s Arrow” in Scientific American, June 2008, p. 48. The direction of time in the universe, entropy, and the notion of a much larger scope for the universe.

Dorminey, B. “Where Has All the Lithium Gone?” in Astronomy, Feb. 2011, p. 42. What we can learn about the early stages of the universe from the abundance of this light element.

Dorminey, B. “What Triggered the Big Bang?” in Astronomy, Oct. 2011, p. 25.  Some of the ideas about eternal inflation and cyclic universe models.

Frank, A. “How the Big Bang Forged the First Elements” in Astronomy, Oct. 2007, p. 32.  On how the hot phase of the big bang synthesized elements, and what their abundance today can tell us about the properties of the universe.

Frank, A. “The First Billion Years” in Astronomy, June 2006, p. 30. On the early eras in cosmic history and the formation of structure.

Hellemans, A. “Understanding Antimatter” in Astronomy, Aug. 2011, p. 24.  On the discovery of antimatter and its relationship to cosmology.

Jayawardhana, Ray “Does Antimatter Matter?” in Astronomy, Dec. 2006, p. 30. On how matter came to dominate in the early universe.

Krauss, L. & Starkman, G. “The Fate of Life in the Universe” in Scientific American, Nov. 1999, p. 58. Cosmology, thermodynamics, and the far future.

Larson, R. & Bromm, V. “The First Stars in the Universe” in Scientific American, Dec. 2001, p. 64. On the “dark ages” after the big bang and before stars formed, and how they ended.

Loeb, A. “The Dark Ages of the Universe” in Scientific American, Nov. 2006, p. 47. Using radio arrays to look back to the period after the big bang faded.

Nadis, S. “Searching for the Shape of the Universe” in Astronomy, Apr. 2008, p. 28. On string theory, branes, additional dimensions and their implications for cosmology.

Nadis, S. “The Big Bang Plus 1 Second” in Astronomy, Apr. 2007, p. 38. On the search for the cosmic neutrino background from the big bang.

Primack, J. & Bell, T. “Universe on Fast Forward” in Sky & Telescope, July 2012, p. 28. Using supercomputer simulations to model modern cosmological ideas.

Riordan, M. & Zajc, W. “The First Few Microseconds” in Scientific American, May 2006, p. 34. Experiments to reproduce conditions right after the big bang.

Strauss, M. “Reading the Blueprints of Creation” in Scientific American, Feb. 2004, p. 54. On large-scale surveys of galaxies and what they tell us about the organization of the early universe.

An artist’s impression of the concept of the multiverse.

An artist’s impression of the concept of the multiverse. (Credit: Wikimedia public domain images)

Articles about New Ideas in Cosmology

Ambjorn, J., et al.  “The Self-Organizing Quantum Universe” in Scientific American, July 2008, p. 42. On new ideas in quantum gravity and how the universe could assemble from quantum components.  Mostly physics.

Arkani-Hamed, N., et al. “The Universe’s Unseen Dimensions” in Scientific American, Aug. 2000, p. 62. On grand unified theories of physics, dimensions, and parallel universes.

Barrow, J. & Webb, J. “Inconstant Constants: Do the Inner Workings of Nature Change with Time?” in Scientific American, June 2005, p. 56.  Possible astronomical evidence that the fine-structure constant has changed over cosmic periods.

Bojowald, M. “Follow the Bouncing Universe” in Scientific American, Oct. 2008, p. 44. On theories of quantum gravity, and a universe that may have had events before the big bang.

Clifton, T & Ferreira, P. “Does Dark Energy Really Exist?” in Scientific American, Apr. 2009, p. 48. Posits another explanation for the Type Ia supernova observations: that the universe is seriously inhomogeneous.

Dorminey, B. “What Triggered the Big Bang?” in Astronomy, Oct. 2011, p. 24. “Next-generation” ideas about what came before the beginning of our universe.

Nadis, S. “How We Could See Another Universe” in Astronomy, June 2009, p. 24.  On modern ideas about multiverses and how such bubbles of space-time might collide.

Steinhardt, P. “Why the Universe Had No Beginning” in Astronomy, Apr. 2009, p. 28. On brane theory and the author’s “cyclic universe” ideas.

Tegmark, M. “Parallel Universes” in Scientific American, May 2003, p. 40.  Ideas about a “multiverse”: physical theories that permit or demand other universes.

Veneziano, G. “The Myth of the Beginning of Time” in Scientific American, May 2004, p. 54. Ideas from string theory about space, time, and branes that pre-date the big bang.

NGC 4526

Image of galaxy NGC 4526 within which lies the bright Supernova 1994d. (Credit: NASA/ESA, The Hubble Key Project Team and The High-Z Supernova Search Team)

Articles about Understanding Cosmological Distances

Dodelson, S. “Seeing the Red Limit: How Astronomers Measure Cosmic Distances” in Astronomy, May 2007, p. 40. Redshift, lookback time, co-moving distance, scale factor, etc.

Corwin, M. & Wachowiak, D.: “Lookback Time: Observing Cosmic History” in Physics Teacher, Oct. 1989, p. 518.  On the effect cosmological models have on the scales of space and time.

Drawing of Herschel's telescope

Artist’s drawing of the largest telescope built by William Herschel, who made significant progress in understanding the structure of the Universe, as we knew it, in the 1700s. (Credit: Wikimedia public domain images; scanned from Leisure Hour, Nov. 2, 1867, page 729)

A Few Articles about the History of Cosmology

Bartusiak, M. “The Cosmologist Left Behind” in Sky & Telescope, Sep. 2009, p. 30.  On V. M. Slipher and his measurements of galaxy motions.

Brush, S. “How Cosmology Became a Science” in Scientific American, Aug. 1992, p. 62. By a noted historian.

Christianson, G. “Mastering the Universe” in Astronomy, Feb. 1999, p. 60. Brief introduction to Hubble’s life and work.

Golden, F. “Astronomy’s Feisty Old Man” in Astronomy, Dec. 1997, p. 54. A profile of Allan Sandage and his work in pinning down the Hubble constant.

Naze, Y. “The Priest, the Universe, and the Big Bang” in Astronomy, Nov. 2007, p. 40. On the life and work of Georges Lemaitre.

Osterbrock, D. “Edwin Hubble and the Expanding Universe” in Scientific American, July 1993, p. 84.

Smith, R. “The Great Debate Revisited” in Sky & Telescope, Jan. 1983, p. 28. On the Shapley-Curtis debate concerning the nature of galaxies and the scale of the cosmos.

Voller, R. “The Man Who Measured the Cosmos” in Astronomy, Jan. 2012, p. 52.  About Milton Humason.

Cosmic Times newspaper

Image of the Cosmic Times newspaper, where readers can find articles related to physics events during various times in the past century. (Credit: NASA).

Papers and Articles on Teaching Cosmology

Lightman, A. & Miller, J. 1989, “Contemporary Cosmological Beliefs,” Social Studies of Science, vol. 19, p. 127.

Miller, E. 2003, “The Gender Gap in Cosmology: Results from a Small Case Study of Undergraduates,” Astronomy Education Review, vol. 1, no. 2, p. 35,

Prather, E., et al. 2002, “Hints of a Fundamental Misconception in Cosmology,” Astronomy Education Review, vol. 1, no. 2, p. 28,

Wallace, Colin An Investigation into Introductory Astronomy Students’ Difficulties with Cosmology, and the Development, Validation, and Efficacy of a new Suite of Cosmology Lecture-Tutorials. 2011, PhD dissertation, University of Colorado.  On line at: (see also a brief summary at: )

Wallace, C., Prather, E., and Duncan, D. 2011, “A Study of General Education Astronomy Students’ Understandings of Cosmology. Part I. Development and Validation of Four Conceptual Cosmology Surveys,” Astronomy Education Review, 10(1), 010106,

Wallace, C., Prather, E., and Duncan, D. 2011, “A Study of General Education Astronomy Students’ Understandings of Cosmology. Part II. Evaluating Four Conceptual Cosmology Surveys: A Classical Test Theory Approach,” Astronomy Education Review, 10(1), 010107,

Wallace, C., Prather, E., and Duncan, D. 2011, “A Study of General Education Astronomy Students’ Understandings of Cosmology. Part III. Evaluating Four Conceptual Cosmology Surveys: An Item Response TheoryApproach,” Astronomy Education Review, 11(1), 010103,

Wallace, C., Prather, E., and Duncan, D. 2011, “A Study of General Education Astronomy Students’ Understandings of Cosmology. Part IV. Common Difficulties Students Experience with Cosmology,” Astronomy Education Review., 11(1), 010104,

Wallace, C., Prather, E., and Duncan D. 2012 “A Study of General Education Astronomy Students’ Understandings of Cosmology. Part V. The Effects of a New Suite of Cosmology Lecture-Tutorials on Students’ Conceptual Knowledge,” International Journal of Science Education, 34(9), 1297.

Wallace, C. and Prather, E. 2012, “Teaching Physics with Hubble’s Law and Dark Matter,” American Journal of Physics, (in press).


This Guide is intended to support the higher education community by making relevant NASA Science Mission Directorate E/PO materials and other resources of potential interest easier to find. NASA-supported education products have passed NASA’s Education Product Review. The selection of non-NASA materials and any opinions expressed in the Guide are those of the compiler, and do not imply endorsement by NASA or the Astrophysics Science Education and Public Outreach Forum.

Comments about the Cosmology Resource Guide and the needs of the astrophysics higher education community can be directed to the Astrophysics Forum Liaison to the NASA Science Mission Directorate Higher Education Working Group: Greg Schultz (Astronomical Society of the Pacific), gschultz {at}


The Cosmology Resource Guide was produced in collaboration with the NASA Astrophysics education and public outreach (E/PO) community. We also gratefully acknowledge the Astronomy 101 instructors whose input on the needs of the higher education community helped shape this Guide.

Contributing NASA Astrophysics E/PO programs include: Astronomy Picture of the Day, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, the NASA Goddard Astrophysics Science Division, the Planck mission, the Sonoma State University E/PO group (Fermi, NuSTAR, Swift, XMM-Newton, Using the Big Ideas in Cosmology), the former Structure and Evolution of the Universe Education Forum, the University of Arizona / JPL Exoplanet Exploration Program Center for Astronomy Education, the University of Chicago E/PO group, and the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP).

The Astrophysics Forum is supported by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate under Cooperative Agreement NNX09AQ11A to the Space Telescope Science Institute, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, and Johns Hopkins University. Contributing Team Members: Higher Education Liaison, Greg Schultz (Astronomical Society of the Pacific); NASA Content Additions, Mangala Sharma (Space Telescope Science Institute); Image Caption Support, Brandon Lawton (Space Telescope Science Institute); Graphic Design: Pam Jeffries (Space Telescope Science Institute).