The Universe: An Illustrated History of Astronomy

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Shelter Harbor Press, 2012 - Science - 144 pages
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Astronomers today believe that the Universe may have begun 13.7 billion years ago, when its entire energy, mass, space, and even time, expanded out from a single point. New, empty space was lit by innumerable baby stars and infant galaxies, their light finally reaching Earth many billions of years later. Every scientific discovery about space and the stars—their beginnings as well as our own—derives from this ancient light. Here we track the history of the Universe and our quest to find our place within it. The story begins among the rough-hewn rocks of ancient megaliths such as Stonehenge, positioned to catch the rising Sun. It continues when the Greek genius Aristarchus pictures the geometry of Earth, Moon, and Sun, revealing the huge empty spaces between them; when Edwin Hubble shows that the Universe is getting ever larger; and when Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky finds that most of the Universe is missing. These moments were turning points, when years of accumulated thought converged upon one astronomer’s obsession, to turn a confounding puzzle into a discovery that changed the way we see the world. We call these Ponderables. Here you’ll find the life and works of great astronomers as they watch the night sky, build observatories, discover galaxies, spot new objects and send probes into space. Together the insights of these great thinkers create an increasingly precise picture of an ever-expanding universe, one still full of mystery. Today, the largest telescopes ever designed are probing farther into the Universe, deeper into the past, looking for clues to constantly evolving questions. What are today’s Imponderables, mysteries yet to be solved? Where will they lead? What will be the next discovery? Includes a removable fold-out concertina neatly housed in the back of the book. This fold-out provides a 12-page Timeline History of the Universe that embeds the story in historical context and shows Who Did What When at a glance. On the reverse side is a 12 page Star Chart of the Night Sky of the northern and southern hemisphere for every month.

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The Universe: an Illustrated History of Astronomy is quite an interesting book. It has 100 Important Discoveries, which were important to the advancement of astronomy, space science, and space travel. It includes a brief Timeline of The Universe for particles, stars, elements, and galaxies from the Big Bang to recently. This brief timeline is included with the astronomy 101 for beginners to astronomy. This book also has a small section of hard to answer questions, followed by a list of well-known scientists.
For me, this book is filled with many facts and pieces of information that I never have known before, for example I did not know how people discovered cosmic rays, who invented solid rocket fuel, how SOHO works, and so on. I also find the detachable timeline, which comes with the book (which includes several other events) interesting, and up-to-date. On the back of the detachable timeline there are several star charts, which would be useful to beginner astronomers. However, these star charts do not include instructions on how to read them.
The list of scientists includes Plato, Galileo, Hubble, Einstein and Stephen Hawking. The list is in alphabetical order and includes their important discoveries to astronomy. Unfortunately, this list does not include many astronomers from outside of Greece and Europe/North America. The many of the hard to answer questions are well known. For example, “Do aliens visit us?” which is a question asked by many people and is well out there. The answers to these questions are not so open-ended and have closings usually giving a conclusion agreed on by some but not all (except for “How the universe will end”).
The Astronomy 101 gives information about the Universe, which is vital to learning how to observe the sky, for example “The four forces”. This section included the four main forces in the universe, which are useful to understand how several things are caused in the universe. The information is somewhat detailed and is quite useful if you’re a beginner to Astronomy. But it is quite short and maybe be not enough for a comprehensive tutorial which might include a lesson on how to use a telescope and such.
This book has many detailed pictures and charts, which mostly helps readers understand the topic being looked upon and helps create the visual experience for them. The visuals have small captions either explaining the chart or telling what the reader is seeing in the picture.
As a summary, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 for its information, usefulness, and up-to-date items, along with several pieces of information that some people would not know about. The one minus is due to the hard to answer questions being close ended instead of open ended for open discussion, so it wouldn’t be bias. The Astronomy 101 is also somewhat short and is not a full tutorial and does not come with a tutorial on star chart reading. Some of the info may be known to others though and may be just for a review. Of course this depends if you know a lot about the Universe and its history. Happy reading!

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About the author (2012)

Tom Jackson is a science author based in the United Kingdom who has written many books, covering everything from axolotls to Zoroastrianism. Mr. Jackson studied zoology at the University of Bristol, and still lives in that city with his wife and three children, where he can be found mainly in the attic.

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