The Orion Nebula: Where Stars Are Born

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9780674011830: The Orion Nebula: Where Stars Are Born
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The glowing cloud in Orion's sword, the Orion Nebula is a thing of beauty in the night sky; it is also the closest center of massive star formation--a stellar nursery that reproduces the conditions in which our own Sun formed some 4.5 billion years ago. The study of the Orion Nebula, focused upon by ever more powerful telescopes from Galileo's time to our own, clarifies how stars are formed, and how we have come to understand the process. C. Robert O'Dell has spent a lifetime studying Orion, and in this book he explains what the Nebula is, how it shines, its role in giving birth to stars, and the insights it affords into how common (or rare) planet formation might be.

An account of astronomy's extended engagement with one remarkable celestial object, this book also tells the story of astronomy over the last four centuries. To help readers appreciate the Nebula and its secrets, O'Dell unfolds his tale chronologically, as astrophysical knowledge developed, and our knowledge of the Nebula and the night sky improved.

Because he served as chief scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope, O'Dell conveys a sense of continuity with his professional ancestors as he describes the construction of the world's most powerful observatory. The result is a rare insider's view of this observatory--and, from that unique perspective, an intimate observer's understanding of one of the sky's most instructive and magnificent objects.

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About the Author:

C. Robert O'Dell is Andrew Hayes Buchanan Professor of Astrophysics Emeritus, Rice University, and Distinguished Research Professor at Vanderbilt University.

Review:

Robert O'Dell knows the Orion nebula well from his own positive experience, and he has incorporated his latest results in The Orion Nebula. The book is written quite well in a colloquial style, like conversation with one of the leading observational authorities on the subject. The Orion Nebula should be read by professional astronomers, graduate students, and everyone with an interest in astronomy, no matter how much or how little they may know about the subject before picking up this book. (Donald E. Osterbrock, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz)

Systematically explaining [how collapsing gas and dust form stars and planets], the author instills a sense of the allure Orion exerts on professionals such as himself, thereby hooking his audience of interested amateurs. (Gilbert Taylor Booklist 2003-09-01)

[O'Dell has] spent his lifetime...building and using massive telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, that offer insight not only to the constellation Orion, but also the universe at large...O'Dell tells the history of how astronomers gained knowledge of the Orion nebula as instrumentation became more sophisticated...[He] offers a rare insider's view of Hubble and provides many images from it. (Science News 2003-01-24)

The Great Nebula in Orion, long famous as a beautiful object for photography, has also served as a Rosetta Stone for astrophysicists, providing a rich source of measurements that have promoted the understanding of those galactic nebulae that are illuminated by hot, young stars. O'Dell, an authority on the subject, guides readers though the development of the techniques with which this object has been observed, and in an exceptionally lucid manner explains how we have been able to derive models of the physical conditions that exist within nebulosity. (D. E. Hogg Choice 2004-03-01)

This is an illuminating book. The importance of the Orion nebula in unravelling the processes, not only of star formation, but also of star/planetary systems, has led to the rapid development of our appreciation in the importance of such collections of interstellar dust and gas for studying these birth processes. This book gives a clear and easily understood presentation. A good read. (Richard Taylor Spaceflight 2004-09-01)

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