Oor Big Braw Cosmos

Oor Big Braw Cosmos


A Cocktail of Cosmic Science, Imagery & Poetry

John C Brown & Rab Wilson

ISBN: 9781913025052

Binding: hardback

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About this book:

Which Scotsman inspired Einstein's Theory of General Relativity?

Which planet is one third made of diamond?

How big is the Universe?

Find out the answers to these questions and many more in this new book from Astronomer Royal for Scotland, John C Brown OBE and Rab Wilson, renowned Scots poet and NTS Scriever in Residence at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. This fascinating guide to our skies and beyond brings together science and art to convey the beauty of our vast cosmos and its scientific workings. Combining an accessible introduction to astronomy with original space-inspired poetry and haiku, and featuring hundreds of stunning images, Oor Big Braw Cosmos shows you space as you've never seen it before.

Watch Rab Wilson perform poems from Oor Big Braw Cosmos


The wildly different backgrounds of the book’s two creators, alongside their merging of seemingly unrelated subject matter, results in a book that is as fascinating in its own story as in its content. The 404 Ink Magazine, Spring/Summer 2019

There’s a good chance that this astronomy book – to quote one of the featured poems by co-author Rab Wilson – is “Gaun bauldly whaur nae man hus gaen afore!” Paul F Cockburn, BBC Sky at Night Magazine

The universe is too big to traverse on foot, or via any vehicle yet devised, so humans have to probe it mentally. Some describe its majesty with mathematical formulae. Others encompass it through verse. This delightfully audacious book does both. The result it positively four-dimensional. Dava Sobel, author of Longitude

Brings together the latest cosmic thinking with a Scottish twist. Chris Lintott, presenter of The Sky at Night

…it is an extraordinary combination of cutting edge science, astronomy history, amateur astrophotography, cultural references and visual art, with verses written by poet Rab Wilson in old Scots – the language of Robbie Burns. Andy Sawers, Chair of the Flamsteed Astronomy Society, The Journal of the British Astronomical Association

This is a book to use both for reference (the astronomer’s summaries of many subjects, from the Big Bang to solar physics and exoplanets, are models of clarity) and sheer fun… It’s a book that rewards both concentrated reading and random toe-dipping in its seas of stars and universal energies. Kenny Taylor, Northwords Now

Interview with John Brown by An Lanntair

Oor big braw cosmos: Tae infinity an ayont …! by Rab Wilson in The National

Learn more about John Brown in The Daily Record

Learn more about astronomy with the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh or the Scottish Astronomers’ Group


Foreword - Regius Professor Andy Lawrence FRSE (Edinburgh)

Foreword - Visiting Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell FRS, FRSE (Oxford)

Introduction - John C Brown and Rab Wilson


Prologue: The Makar

Chapter 1 - Let’s Get Started

Big Numbers and Just How Big Is the Universe?

Doactir Wha?

Space, Gravity, Orbits & the Vacuum

Musky’s Motor Caur

In the Beginning

Chapter 2 - Planets and Planetary Systems

What are Planetary Systems?

The Auld Professor

International Space Station

Apollo, Moonwalks and the First Space Selfie


Mune Trees

Blue Moons, Super Moons and Other Moon Madness

Super Blue Bluid Mune

The Solar System’s Gobsmacking Moons

Dumfounerin Munes

Saturn’s Wonderful Rings


Goldilocks and the Three Exoplanets

Chapter 3 - The Sun, the Stars and Nebulae

Solar Facts, Figures and Phenomena




The Pleiades and other Star Clusters


Star Clusters

Birth, Life and Death of Stars and Associated Nebulae

Deuks an Dugs

Chapter 4 - Galaxies and the Large-scale Structure of the Cosmos

The Milky Way and Andromeda

Galaxies and the Extragalactic Universe

Cosmic Expansion, Dark Matter, Dark Energy and the Multiverse

Chapter 5 - Some Early Great Scots Astronomers

Today’s Scottish Astronomy Scene

James Gregory

Alexander Wilson

The Sairchin Mind

Thomas Brisbane

Mary Somerville

Mary Somerville

A Wee Message Frae Mary Somerville

Thomas Henderson

John Pringle Nichol

Charles Piazzi Smyth


James Clerk Maxwell


Williamina Fleming

Chapter 6 - Human Views and Models of the Cosmos Through the Ages

From Cave Art to the Late Neolithic

Afore the Dawn

The Geometrically Perfect Cosmos of Ancient Greece and its Legacy

The Grand Orrery

Mechanical Models of Time, Space and Motion

Modern Planetaria and Virtual Reality Systems

Modern Artistic Representations of the Cosmos

Chapter 7 - Some Personal Adventures in Oor Big Braw Cosmos


Two New Constellations for Scotland


The Astronomer Royal for Scotland – Tales of a Coat of Arms

Arms and the Man

The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory and a Burns Club Visit

Ayont the Sun

Ten Draps o Watter

The Kirkhill Pillar, Calderwood and Gazing Toward Black Holes

Chapter 8 - In the End

The End of Life on Earth and of our Planets

The Fates of Galaxies, Stars and Exoplanetary Systems

The Final Physical Fate of the Cosmos


Epilogue: Aeternum

Appendix - The Wider Worlds of Cosmic Imagery and Poetry

The Star o Hope

Map - Some Scottish Sites of Astronomical Interest

Timeline - Some Highlights in Cosmic and Astronomical History