Totality: Eclipses of the Sun

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9780195131789: Totality: Eclipses of the Sun
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Now Oxford University Press is pleased to be publishing a new edition of Totality that has been updated to include current information on the August 1999 eclipse over parts of Europe, Turkey, and Africa, as well as information on other major eclipses of the forthcoming decade. Including the basics of how and where to view an eclipse--and how to view it safely--this book also presents the history, mythology, solar science, and astrodynamics of eclipses. This new edition also adds Fred Espenak, noted eclipse photographer and Astrophysicist at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, to the team of authors, and integrates many of his stunning color photographs into this unparalleled exploration of eclipses.

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Review:

Francis Baily spent his 20s exploring unsettled parts of North America and didn't get around to astronomy until he was 37, when he traveled to an annular eclipse of the Sun in southern Scotland. On May 15, 1836, he watched as light from the occluded sun poured through the lunar valleys and reached him broken up into "a row of lucid points, like a string of bright beads." With those words, Baily founded the industry of eclipse chasing.

The best feature of Totality is its wealth of biographical information about eclipse chasers past and present. Throughout this century, every total eclipse over land has been attended by scientists willing to travel great distances, endure hostile climates--and risk complete failure because of clouds--for a few minutes' view of the corona. This turbulent outer part of the sun, best studied when the sun is obscured, draws observers across the globe to this day.

Totality, like most eclipse guides produced in time for the 1999 eclipse, doesn't seem to know which readers it's addressing. Near the beginning, the reader is abjured not to let all the science bits "stand in the way of your enjoyment of the wild, wacky, and wonderful things people have thought and done about solar eclipses." What a strange sentiment in such a fascinating and adult marriage of science, history, biography, and sound technical advice. --Simon Ings, Amazon.co.uk

About the Author:

Mark Littmann holds an endowed professorship in science writing and teaches astronomy at the University of Tennessee.

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