336 pages, 5 b/w photos, 51 colour & 57 b/w illustrations, 8 tables
Astronomers study the oldest observable stars in the universe in much the same way that archaeologists study ancient artifacts on Earth. Here, Anna Frebel – who is credited with discovering several of the oldest and most primitive stars using the world's largest telescopes – takes readers into the far-flung depths of space and time to provide a gripping firsthand account of the cutting-edge science of stellar archaeology.
Weaving the latest findings in astronomy with her own compelling insights as one of the world's leading researchers in the field, Frebel explains how sections of the night sky are "excavated" in the hunt for these extremely rare relic stars – some of which have been shining for more than 13 billion years – and how this astonishing quest is revealing tantalizing new details about the earliest times in the universe. She vividly describes how the very first stars formed soon after the big bang and then exploded as supernovae, leaving behind chemical fingerprints that were incorporated into the ancient stars we can still observe today. She shows how these fingerprints provide clues to the cosmic origin of the elements, early star and galaxy formation, and the assembly process of the Milky Way. Along the way, Frebel recounts her own stories of discovery, offering an insider's perspective on this exciting frontier of science.
Lively and accessible, Searching for the Oldest Stars sheds vital new light on the origins and evolution of the cosmos while providing a unique look into life as an astronomer.
"Frebel accessibly describes the cutting-edge archaeological search in our cosmic backyard – the halo of the Milky Way galaxy – for relics from the first generation of stars born shortly after the big bang. This wonderfully written book captures the scientific excitement of research in this field by one of its pioneers."
– Avi Loeb, Harvard University
"Anna Frebel is the Indiana Jones of astronomy. In the search for the oldest stars, her cosmic fossils, she and her colleagues are revealing the very evolution of our universe. This book offers a thorough and detailed summary of those stellar explorations – how stars are born and die, how they generate the chemical elements – but also a fascinating portrait of how science gets done."
– Marcia Bartusiak, author of The Day We Found the Universe and Black Hole
"This authoritative and accessible book is a delightful read. Covering wide swathes of the subject, Frebel provides readers with insights into what it is like to be a research astronomer today. I am thrilled to see the recognition given to the work done by women astronomers."
– Jocelyn Bell Burnell, University of Oxford
"I loved reading these great stories by a master of the subject. Frebel tells them as simply as possible but no simpler – to paraphrase Einstein – and peppers her narrative with her own adventures and those of other pioneer women astronomers. There's plenty here to interest professional astronomers as well as nonspecialists."
– John Mather, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics
"This is a beautiful book. Frebel describes, firsthand, the hunt for the first stars in the universe and the genuine thrill felt when working at the frontier of human knowledge. She weaves an engaging story of discovery."
– Volker Bromm, University of Texas at Austin
"Frebel provides an entertaining introduction to stellar astrophysics and the hunt for the oldest stars. Blending hard science with an account of her own experiences as one of the leading scientists in stellar archaeology, she manages to discuss complex phenomena in an intuitive way that nonspecialists can understand. Readers will enjoy this book without having an extended background in astrophysics."
– Ralf S. Klessen, Heidelberg University
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Anna Frebel is the Silverman (1968) Family Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has received numerous international honors and awards for her discoveries and analyses of the oldest stars. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.