Each edition of the Wisconsin Blue Book includes a main article which focuses on some aspect of Wisconsin government or history, or our physical, cultural, or social environment. These articles supplement the detailed statistical information about the organization and functions of state government and constitute an eclectic repository of knowledge about our state and its proud traditions. Prior articles have addressed such varied topics as the Wisconsin court system, the renovation of the State Capitol, the Wisconsin Idea, and most recently, a detailed roster of the names and background of those who have served in the Wisconsin Legislature since statehood.
The feature article in this, the 2009-2010 Wisconsin Blue Book and 89th edition in the series, takes an entirely different direction. "Wisconsin at the Frontiers of Astronomy: A History of Innovation and Exploration" by Peter Susalla and James Lattis of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, provides a wide-ranging overview of the role that the University and state have played in advancing mankind's knowledge of the universe. Jim Lattis is a faculty associate in the UW-Madison Astronomy Department and cofounder and Director of UW Space Place, an education and public outreach center. Peter Susalla is a doctoral candidate in the History of Science Department of the UW-Madison and wrote his master's thesis on George Comstock and the early history of the Washburn Observatory. The article that they have produced plows new ground and tells a story of the contributions Wisconsin and its state university have made to the development of the science of astronomy. The authors cover a lot of ground – beginning with the evidence of interest in the cosmos left by the cultures that existed many thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans in what is now Wisconsin, to the establishment of the Washburn Observatory, to the contributions UW scientists have made to the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station, and finally, to the groundbreaking research currently being conducted in places as far afield as the South Pole and South Africa.
The text is augmented by a generous number of photos and graphics, many in full color, which add visual interest and additional information. A striking poster, "Stardust Memories" highlights some of the cosmic phenomena studied by UW astronomers and is a colorful and informative adjunct to the article. The Blue Book editors are grateful to authors Lattis and Susalla and their colleagues in the UW Astronomy department for their efforts in producing this exceptional contribution to the 2009-2010 Blue Book.
The feature article topic is particularly fitting in that the year 2009 has been designated as the International Year of Astronomy. 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of the discoveries made by Galileo who pointed a telescope skyward to peer into the cosmos. That was humankind's first magnified look at the moon and is considered to be the birth of the science of astronomy. In addition, in 2009 the UW's Washburn Observatory reopened after undergoing extensive restoration and remodeling.
The astronomical theme is continued throughout the book. LRB photo editor Kathleen Sitter, who designed the layout of the feature article, also chose the vivid photographs and graphics on each of the 12 chapter divider pages which organize the book.
Finally, the photographs appearing on the front and back covers deserve mention. The striking images of the moon, the State Capitol dome and the Madison skyline that appear on the front and back covers are not only dramatic but are an especially fitting complement to the astronomical theme. The photos are the work of John Rummel, a Madison school psychologist and an amateur astronomer and photographer of considerable talent. The photographs have not been digitally altered or manipulated in any manner and are the products of years of painstaking planning by John in his quest to photograph the capitol dome and Madison skyline framed by the rising and setting moon. Studying the movement of the moon and its relationship to the capitol and finding the appropriate location to take his photos required years of trial and error. Success also depended on the vagaries of the weather—a clear sky and the absence of ground haze were prerequisites. Working with a narrow window of opportunity, John ultimately succeeded in aligning the heavens and the earth, producing the dramatic images that we have reproduced here.
The cover photo of a rising moon, captured in stunning detail and seemingly floating just above the Madison skyline and adjacent to the State Capitol, is further enhanced by the sailboats bathed in the lights reflected off the tranquil waters of Lake Mendota. It was taken from the northwest shore of Lake Mendota near Governor Nelson State Park. The photo on the back cover is a fitting counterpoint to the cover photo. It was taken from the eastern shore of Lake Monona and is highlighted by the setting crescent moon in the twilight sky. The image also includes, in perfect alignment, the planets Saturn and Mars, and the star Regulus.
We are indebted to John Rummel for sharing his remarkable photos and generously allowing us to reprint them on the covers of the 2009-2010 Blue Book.
As always, the Blue Book contains a wealth of information befitting its status as the Almanac of Wisconsin State Government. We hope that you find the latest edition to be an informative and useful resource and a worthy addition to the Blue Book series.