First Light: The Search for the Edge of the Universe

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Random House, 1996 - Science - 275 pages
2 Reviews
First Light is perhaps the best book about astronomy ever written. It tells the story of the men and women at the Palomar Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains of California who peer through the amazing Hale Telescope at the farthest edges of space, attempting to solve the riddle of the beginning of time. "Science is a lot weirder and more human than most people realize", Preston writes in his foreword to this revised and updated edition of his first book, and he skillfully weaves together stories of the eccentricities of his characters and the technical wonders of their work to create a riveting narrative about what scientists do and why they do it. The telescope itself is the main character. It is huge, seven stories tall, the heaviest working telescope on earth, with a mirror that is two hundred inches wide and took fourteen years to cast and polish. The telescope is used by astronomers like James E. Gunn, a "gadgeteer" who scavenges for junk parts and fashions them into sensitive instruments he uses to look into the glittering depths of the universe. Preston's rendering of the obsessions and adventures of Gunn and his colleagues is a witty and illuminating portrait of scientists in action and a luminous story of what modern astronomy is all about.

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User Review  - hildretha - LibraryThing

Brilliant! Preston perfectly balances the science, technology and human aspects of the story and conveys the tedium and joy of taking astronomical observations, without ever becoming dry. I enthusiastically recommend it. Read full review

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User Review  - billsearth - LibraryThing

This book is the very best book that deals with the way scientists pursue astronomy research. The book gives the reader the excitement of closing in on a discovery, and of all the details that can be ... Read full review

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About the author (1996)

Richard Preston received The Overseas Press Club of America's 1995 Whitman Bassow Award for "best reporting in any medium on environmental issues" for The Hot Zone. First Light, Preston's first book, won the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker. Preston lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with his wife and children.

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