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A Question and Answer Guide to Astronomy

By: Pierre-Yves Bely, Carol Christian and Jean-Rene Roy

280 pages, Col & b/w illus

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Mar 2010 | #185136 | ISBN-13: 9780521180665
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NHBS Price: £26.99 $35/€31 approx

About this book

Are we alone in the Universe? Was there anything before the Big Bang? Are there other universes? What are sunspots? What is a shooting star? Was there ever life on Mars?

This book answers the fascinating questions that we have been asking ourselves for hundreds of years. Using non-technical language, the authors summarize current astronomical knowledge, taking care to include the important underlying scientific principles.

'... the authors tackle an amazing range of questions. Regardless of how advanced you consider yourself in astronomy ... I don't doubt you will find this trio's collaborative effort intriguing and highly thought provoking - and that you'll probably need to reread one or more entries at least twice to digest the full scope of the information presented. I think this work should reside on every astronomy enthusiast's bookshelf; it will certainly sit on mine.' Chris Raymond, Astronomy 'I would recommend this book whether you know a lot or a little: it is full of memorable snippets, clear and satisfying reasoning, and enough facts to keep you entertained for a very long time.' Astronomy Now 'The book would be extremely useful for teachers who are looking for quick, clear, and authoritative answers for pre-college students, for professors teaching introductory college astronomy, and who need analogies and other ways to explain complex topics such as dark energy and even string theory, and for parents who may be challenged by their children's curiosity about the night sky and all things astronomical.' Sidney Wolff, Astronomy Education Review '... the guide is informative, and by successfully tackling ideas that are often misunderstood, it makes for a worthwhile and enjoyable read.' Physics World '... a practical reference for anyone who has ever wondered what is out there, where it all comes from, and how it all works.' Spaceflight 'Using just enough relevant pictures, diagrams, and charts, the authors provide lucid answers to the big questions that the study of astronomy tends to generate. This book will be useful to anyone curious about astronomy, mostly because it is a very good read ... very enjoyable ... for anyone with even a passing interest ...' National Science Teachers Association 'The fact that the authors are, respectively, an engineer specialising in telescope design, an astrophysicist, and a senior scientist at the Gemini Observatory, ensures that the underlying principles of astronomy are solidly covered, while the contents of the cosmos and ... methods of exploring it are not neglected ... An excellent bibliography and website list complete a very interesting book that ought to have a place on the shelves of astronomers, whatever their level of acquaintance with the noble science.' Bob Mizon, Journal of the British Astronomical Association


Stars; The Solar System; The Earth; The Moon; Celestial phenomena; The Universe; Life in the Universe; History of astronomy; Telescopes; Amateur astronomy; Bibliography; References; Index.

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Pierre-Yves Bely is an engineer specializing in the design and construction of large optical telescopes. He was Chief Engineer for the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, has worked on the Hubble Space Telescope and the design of its successor. Carol Christian is an astrophysicist and Deputy of the Community Missions Office at the Space Telescope Science Institute. In addition to technical and outreach support of NASA missions, she is a collaborator on the Google Sky and World Wide Telescope projects for exploration of the sky on the internet. Jean-Rene Roy is an astrophysicist specializing in the evolution of galaxies and the formation of massive stars. He is Deputy Director of the Gemini Observatory, which hosts two of the largest telescopes in the world, one in Hawaii and the other in Chile.

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