Stars (Scientific American Library)

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9780716760313: Stars (Scientific American Library)
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In this fascinating Journey to the farther reaches of space, astronomer James Kaler explores the nature of stars, describing their origins, varieties, distributions, compositions, and distinctive histories. He demonstrates that stars are the key to our comprehension of how the universe evolved--and that the birth, development, and death of stars is intimately associated with our own origins.

From the earliest folklore to recent theories about dark matter, Stars chronicles the science of stellar astronomy, concluding with the evolution of high mass stars, whose spectacular deaths generate supernovae, pulsars, neutron stars, and enigmatic black holes. Elegantly written and illustrated, Stars is a compelling portrait of the cosmos as a vast engine of regeneration where stars are born, live, and die.

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Review:

"Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are...."

Wonder no more. Astronomer James Kaler has written a lucid, beautifully illustrated guide to the most obvious ingredient of the universe. "To know ourselves, we must know the stars"--how they are created, what makes them shine, their distances, and their fates. To say "we are stardust" is cold scientific truth: every element in our bodies (and our planet) except the hydrogen was made inside a star and thrown into space by a supernova explosion five billion years ago or more.

Walt Whitman's poem "When I Heard the Learned Astronomer" describes how he became "tired and sick" of "charts and diagrams" and left to "look up in perfect silence at the stars." Kaler refutes Whitman by example as he combines scientific fact with poetic expression:

Stars come dripping from the fonts of interstellar space, where they are created out of the loose gas and dust. As they age, they pump enriched matter back into the wellsprings of creation.

Kaler is a learned astronomer that even Whitman might have followed. --Mary Ellen Curtin

About the Author:

James B. Kaler, Professor of Astronomy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is internationally recognized for his work on stars and stellar evolution.

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