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The ‘curious and ingenious’ men who met at Gresham College and founded the Royal Society were fascinated by the Sun and Planets; the ‘fixed stars’ were a distant mystery to them. Over succeeding centuries, cosmic horizons have expanded – largely thanks to ever more powerful instruments. So has our understanding – though each advance brings into focus a new set of mysteries.

Martin John Rees is a British cosmologist and astrophysicist.