Books To Get You Thinking

One of the rarest predictable events in the solar system made history on June 5, 2012. The orbital planes of both the planets Venus and Earth moved into perfect alignment so that the image of Venus (a solid black circle) could be seen travelling across the face of the Sun. The event happens in pairs eight years apart separated from each other by 105 or 121 years. The next transit is now set to occur only in 2117. For those of us who missed witnessing this spectacular sight there are some dazzling images of the Venus transit on the NASA website.

The distant skies and the universe beyond have always held a deep and eternal fascination for mankind. As early as the 1500s, astronomers as Copernicus and Galileo had already started investigating the concept of a heliocentric universe and discovered the earliest version of the telescope. Advances in the science of astronomy allow us today to trace the history and map out the size and structure of the universe through sophisticated telescopes and observatories. The famous NASA Hubble space telescope in orbit high above the earth has been able to capture and send stunning images of galaxies and matter billions of years away that have profoundly increased our understanding of the universe that surrounds us.  The Mercer County Library System offers readers a rich collection of resources on different facets of the fascinating world of astronomy, its history and development over time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Universe: The Definitive Visual Guide edited by Martin Rees                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Abounding with hundreds of brilliant illustrations, this unique volume is also a comprehensive guide to the universe and its structure and composition at different periods of time. The book is divided into distinct sections in a logical sequence that helps readers interweave complex scientific concepts of physics into a coherent understanding of what defines the universe, and the notions of space and time.  Answers to questions that have intrigued mankind through the ages can be found in between the pages of this exciting volume: how the Universe come into being, the birth and existence of the planets and stars, galaxies and supernovae, the history of man’s quest to discover what lay beyond the earth and the development of technology that has allowed us to probe and explore matter that lies millions of light years away from us. The book includes a detailed section on the constellations, mapping the entirety of the night sky with star charts and vivid descriptions of important stars that sparkle and glitter from millions of miles away.

A Journey Through Time: Exploring the Universe with the Hubble Space Telescope by Jay Barbree & Martin Caidin                                                                                                                                                              A fascinating story of  NASA’s Hubble Space telescope that was set in orbit  above the  surface of the earth in 1990. By positioning a state of the art telescope in Space, scientists hoped to retrieve clear images from faraway galaxies inaccessible from even the most powerful telescopes on earth.  However, following the launch there was intense disappointment as construction defects in the telescope mirror resulted in Hubble transmitting only foggy, blurred images.  In 1993 NASA astronauts carried out a daring spacewalk expedition and successfully repaired the flawed telescope. The thousands of brilliant crystal clear images received from Hubble have provided the world with a window into far away space with its planets, comets, meteoroids, nebulae, and exploding stars. We can travel past distant galaxies and into the farthest realms of the universe. What is fascinating is that the light from the distant galaxies takes billions of years to travel to Hubble and the earth. As a result the images we see represent matter that existed in different eras of time - we are able to witness the distant past and get important insights into how the universe might have originated. The authors have interwoven engaging writing with spectacular photographs – the result is a volume rich with information about the cosmos that raises fascinating questions about the history and the evolution of the universe.  

Renaissance Genius: Galileo Galilei & His Legacy to Modern Science by David Whitehouse Perhaps one of the greatest contributors to the science of astronomy was mathematician, scientist, and philosopher, Galileo (1564 -1633).  The author has created a captivating blend of scientific material and the history of astronomy interwoven with the story of Galileo’s life, the deep influence of music on his consciousness and his obsession with mathematics and the telescope that led him to make profound discoveries over his lifetime. Galileo lived in the era of the Renaissance when his new discoveries about the solar system and the motion of the earth clashed with the existing mindset of religious beliefs of that time and were deemed to go against the Holy Scriptures. He was tried at the Inquisition and it was only 350 years after his death that the Church exonerated him.  Galileo is best known for the invention and development of his perspiculum that enabled him to detect the uneven surface of the moon, and identify the four satellites of Jupiter.  In 1610 Galileo published his book Sidereus Nuncius` (Starry Messenger) with beautiful watercolor paintings depicting his cosmic observations - the book has continued to fascinate readers through the ages to present times.

Data Book of Astronomy by Patrick Moore and Robin Rees                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Patrick Moore, the prolific British author and host of the longest running BBC science television series, The Sky at Night was knighted in 2001 for his outstanding services to broadcasting and the popularization of science in England.  The book is a culmination of Moore’s long years of research in astronomy. Extending over 576 pages the volume presents readers with comprehensive and captivating information about the solar system, the galaxies, comets and asteroids extending over the to the farthest known end of the universe. The Universe is not a static phenomenon - it is constantly changing and evolving. Moore has meticulously prepared   tables and charts detailing the most current data and information on the planets, stars, constellations, comets, meteoroids, and nebulae and presented them in a language that makes the book easily comprehensible to readers of all backgrounds.  Particularly fascinating are the chapters on alternate theories of the birth and evolution of the universe as well as a time line of the history of astronomy dating back to the 1400s that traces important developments, milestones and landmark events in the field of astronomy and space exploration over time.  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               -Nita Mathur


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