Astronomy

Posted on June 12, 2018. Filed under: Nonfiction | Tags: , , |

Astronomy is the study of the movement of stars, planets, and other celestial objects. It is one of the few sciences where amateurs can make significant contributions with just the naked eye. Many early civilizations used astronomy for the basis of their calendars. Astronomy has also been used for navigation. Before GPS, sailors used sextants to “shoot” an object in the sky either by day or night and calculate their position. In the past, celestial objects were named after mythological characters. Today, they are most often named after their founders or historical people.

For an example of what you can find in the night sky, check out this June 11 – 17 episode of Star Gazers.

More information on astronomy can be found on the NASA website as well as in some of these books here at Oakton.

The Cosmic Perspective
by Jeffrey Bennett, University of Colorado at Boulder

“The Cosmic Perspective, Eighth Edition provides a thoroughly engaging and up-to-date introduction to astronomy for non-science majors. This text offers a wealth of features that enhance student understanding of the process of science and actively engage students in the learning process for key concepts. The fully updated Eighth Edition includes the latest scientific discoveries, revises several subjects based on our most current understanding of the cosmos, and now emphasizes deeper understanding of the twists and turns of the process of science and the relevance of concepts to student’s lives” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

Surveying the SkiesSurveying the Skies: How Astronomers Map the Universe
by Gareth Wynn-Williams

“Since the time of Galileo, astronomy has been driven by technological innovation. With each major advance has come the opportunity and enthusiasm to survey the sky in a way that was not possible before.  It is these surveys of discovery that are the subject of this book.

In the first few chapters the author discusses what astronomers learned from visible-light surveys, first with the naked eye, then using telescopes in the seventeenth century, and photography in the nineteenth century. He then moves to the second half of the twentieth century when the skies started to be swept by radio, infrared, ultraviolet, x-ray and gamma ray telescopes, many of which had to be flown in satellites above the Earth’s atmosphere. These surveys led to the discovery of pulsars, quasars, molecular clouds, protostars, bursters, and black holes.

He then returns to Earth to describe several currently active large-scale projects that methodically collect images, photometry and spectra that are then stored in vast publicly-accessible databases.  Dr. Wynn-Williams also describes several recent ‘microsurveys’—detailed studies of small patches of sky that have led to major advances in our understanding of cosmology and exoplanets” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

The Universe in Your HandThe Universe in Your Hand: A Journey through Space, Time, and Beyond
by Christophe Galfard<

“Christophe Galfard’s mission in life is to spread modern scientific ideas to the general public in entertaining ways. Using his considerable skills as a brilliant theoretical physicist and successful young adult author, The Universe in Your Hand employs the immediacy of simple, direct language to show us, not explain to us, the theories that underpin everything we know about our universe.

To understand what happens to a dying star, we are asked to picture ourselves floating in space in front of it. To get acquainted with the quantum world, we are shrunk to the size of an atom and then taken on a journey. Employing everyday similes and metaphors, addressing the reader directly, and writing stories rather than equations renders these astoundingly complex ideas in an immediate and visceral way. Utterly captivating and entirely unique, The Universe in Your Hand will find its place among other classics in the field” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

The Ballet of the PlanetsThe Ballet of the Planets: On the Mathematical Elegance of Planetary Motion
by Donald C. Benson

“The Ballet of the Planets unravels the beautiful mystery of planetary motion, revealing how our understanding of astronomy evolved from Archimedes and Ptolemy to Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton. Mathematician Donald Benson shows that ancient theories of planetary motion were based on the assumptions that the Earth was the center of the universe and the planets moved in a uniform circular motion. Since ancient astronomers noted that occasionally a planet would exhibit retrograde motion—would seem to reverse its direction and move briefly westward—they concluded that the planets moved in epicyclic curves, circles with smaller interior loops, similar to the patterns of a child’s Spirograph.

With the coming of the Copernican revolution, the retrograde motion was seen to be apparent rather than real, leading to the idea that the planets moved in ellipses. This laid the ground for Newton’s great achievement—integrating the concepts of astronomy and mechanics—which revealed not only how the planets moved, but also why. Throughout, Benson focuses on naked-eye astronomy, which makes it easy for the novice to grasp the work of these pioneers of astronomy” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

Hubble's UniverseHubble’s Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Latest Images
by Terence Dickinson

“The Hubble Space Telescope. No other telescope combines instant name recognition with the production of consistently spectacular images. Yet few people outside of the astronomy community realize that Hubble is now at the apex of its imaging capabilities. A collection of stunningly detailed pictures, made possible by the new Wide Field Camera 3, has yet to be incorporated into a popular-level book. Until now.

Hubble’s Universe will be the premier venue for the Hubble Telescope’s most recent visual splendors. Bestselling astronomy writer Terence Dickinson showcases extraordinary late-breaking pictures, many of which have yet to receive wide distribution as news stories or in publications outside scientific papers, and presents a breathtaking portfolio drawn from an archive of over 500,000 existing Hubble images.

The accompanying text balances accuracy with accessibility, Dickinson’s hallmark. And thanks to the author’s familiarity with Hubble’s history and discoveries and his access to top Hubble scientists for insight and accuracy, the text includes facts and tidbits not found in any other book” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

Space ChroniclesSpace Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier
by Neil deGrasse Tyson ; edited by Avis Lang

“Neil deGrasse Tyson is a rare breed of astrophysicist, one who can speak as easily and brilliantly with popular audiences as with professional scientists. Now that NASA has put human space flight effectively on hold—with a five- or possibly ten-year delay until the next launch of astronauts from U.S. soil—Tyson’s views on the future of space travel and America’s role in that future are especially timely and urgent.

This book represents the best of Tyson’s commentary, including a candid new introductory essay on NASA and partisan politics, giving us an eye-opening manifesto on the importance of space exploration for America’s economy, security, and morale. Thanks to Tyson’s fresh voice and trademark humor, his insights are as delightful as they are provocative, on topics that range from the missteps that shaped our recent history of space travel to how aliens, if they existed, might go about finding us” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

Pale Blue DotPale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
by Carl Sagan

“In Cosmos, the late astronomer Carl Sagan cast his gaze over the magnificent mystery of the Universe and made it accessible to millions of people around the world. Now in this stunning sequel, Carl Sagan completes his revolutionary journey through space and time. Future generations will look back on our epoch as the time when the human race finally broke into a radically new frontier—space.

In Pale Blue Dot Sagan traces the spellbinding history of our launch into the cosmos and assesses the future that looms before us as we move out into our own solar system and on to distant galaxies beyond. The exploration and eventual settlement of other worlds is neither a fantasy nor luxury, insists Sagan, but rather a necessary condition for the survival of the human race” (Descriptive content provided by Syndetics).

-posted by Kevin Purtell

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