The Firefly Encyclopedia of Astronomy

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9781552977972: The Firefly Encyclopedia of Astronomy

An extensive astronomy reference, beautifully illustrated and expertly written.

The Firefly Encyclopedia of Astronomy is organized A-Z with concise details on each topic. The pages are profusely illustrated with vivid computer graphics, photography and archival images. Included are accessible contributions by 650 world-leading astronomers covering:

  • History from the Big Bang to present
  • Famous astronomer bios
  • Key space missions since the launch of Sputnik
  • The work of observatories worldwide.

"Backyard stargazing is a lot more fun when you understand what you're looking at. The Orion Nebula is pretty in any telescope, but the view is all the more inspiring when you know that the light you're seeing left the nebula as the Roman Empire fell and that new stars are continually forming from the glowing gas.

"It's appropriate that professionals and amateurs should come together to produce such a work, because at the dawn of the twenty-first century the line between the two communities is becoming blurred. Technology is putting state-of-the-art capabilities into the hands of backyard observers, many of whom are now collaborating with professionals to study phenomena as diverse as Martian dust storms and bursts of energetic radiation from distant galaxies.

"Wherever your astronomical interests take you, this encyclopedia will be a welcome and valuable companion."

Rick Fienberg
Editor-in-Chief of Sky and Telescope magazine

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Paul Murdin, BNSC, PPARC is a leading authority on astronomy and astrophysics and is a senior fellow at the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy.

Margaret Penston is a former Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Astronomical Society. She is the current President of the United Kingdom's Society for Popular Astronomy.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Preface

Photons of light can travel for years, centuries, even millennia, across the unfathomable vastness of space. When they reach our small world, they enter our eyes, activate our optic nerves and fire our imagination. In response to these small triggers, we can paint a mental picture of the source of the photons -- the planets, stars and galaxies in the night sky. We can begin to wrestle with the concepts of modern astronomy, which sometimes seem more like science fiction than science: pulsars, quasars, black holes, dark matter and the ultimate fate of the universe.

Because astronomy creates these extraordinary images in our minds as well as in print or on the Web, and because it is something everyone can enjoy directly with the unaided eye or with a telescope, it is a science with a huge popular following. There are a few lucky professionals, but they are supported by a small army of unpaid enthusiasts who observe the might sky on a regular basis.

There are few sciences where professionals work so closely with amateurs, and this encyclopedia is evidence of that proximity. In non-technical language, we synthesize reports from 800 of the world's leading astronomers (listed at the back of the book) to make the latest professional research available to everyone. (In what other field would leading-edge research be of such general interest?) And these articles are linked to features on practical astronomy (printed on a yellow background) by amateurs whose work crosses the border into professional territory. We hope that this combination of theory and practice will make the picture of the universe expressed in this encyclopedia more vivid, more realistic, more understandable -- more like it actually is.

Smaller entries explain key concepts, and illustrate others by reference to individual planets, stars, nebulae and galaxies. We sketch out the world community of astronomy, past and present, with entries about all the significant astronomical satellites, telescopes and professional facilities, and about important astronomers from all over the world.

We have tried to make a popularly accessible astronomy encyclopedia that sails as close to the direction of the wind of research as possible. If the balance of the topics in this book is different from the balance in other amateur astronomy encyclopedias, that is because it is derived from professional astronomy as it is now, and looks forward. Assisted by open access to the mammoth professional Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics (Nature Publishing Group/IOP Publishing 2001), we have set out a landscape into which amateur astronomers might travel further in the future. The increasing sophistication of astronomical education and the development of the technology available to amateurs have put amateur astronomy now where professional astronomy was not very long ago.

So here is the subject matter of astronomy, and a road map through it. We hope that we can share our excitement for modern astronomy and what you can do yourself with cheap and modest, or elaborate and expensive, equipment. Add your imagination, and you can reap the reward of constructing those elusive pictures, knowing that they are as accurate as anyone else can see without actually being there.

Paul Murdin and Margaret Penston.

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