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Book Reviews

Stars Above, Earth Below: A Guide to Astronomy in the National Parks
Author:Tyler Nordgren

Publisher: SpringerŠPraxis

ISBN: 978-1-4419-1648-8

Price: £ 26.99 (Pb), 300pp

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Tyler Nordgren is an astronomer who is very at home in the wilderness, camping and enjoying his surroundings whether it is by day or night. This book charts his quest to visit twelve national parks in the USA and write a diary of a number of cultural points alongside descriptions of night sky objects observed from the various locations. Although his own quest didn’t commence until the summer of 2007, his real starting point is an astronomical lecture by a park ranger in the Yosemite National Park in 2005. Here we have the first of many external appreciations that are woven into this book – the rangers’ diversity of activities.

Nordgren’s physical journey begins back in Yosemite National Park within the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California – a rugged terrain with an exceptional glacier. In time, Nordgren details precisely the mountains, viewing platforms and natural escarpments that enrich the experience of the unpolluted night sky in all twelve parks. The crystal clear calderas, ranges, and glaciers provide the best positions.

From all the chapters, ‘Worlds of Fire and Ice’ is simply a brilliant piece of descriptive writing. The Yellowstone National Park ranger is seen holding a cross section of the Old Faithful geyser against the backdrop of one of the snowiest winters recorded. Nordgren brings together a number of references and articles to compare his own surface findings, and there appears a correlation with other planets’ volcanic heating and cooling activity. Although the geology may match with lava flows on Jupiter, geysers on Neptune, and volcanoes on Mars, Nordgren ensures that we are fully versed with the statistics such as the distance to planets that the Sun’s heat has to travel and the likely temperatures. Nordgren devotes a whole chapter to Mars.

Whilst we are normally told to treat spiritual interventions with some scepticism, here Nordgren makes no fight of it or asks us to judge. He states the cultural argument concisely and in context, which is a quality of the text. There are some wonderful illustrations and photographs throughout the book and I particularly like the clear referencing at the end of each chapter.

Nordgren succeeds by encouraging us all to return to the debates of natural phenomena both in terms of the Earth and the beautiful night sky. He also succeeds to bring us back to basics – to look! – something we did years ago when first starting out but have perhaps forgotten or now take for granted in our internet information age!

Ian Welland

2009 Yearbook
This 132-page special edition features the ultimate observing guide for 2009, a review of all the biggest news stories of 2008, in depth articles covering all aspects of astronomy and space missions for 2009, previews of International Year of Astronomy events and much, much more.

Infinity Rising
This special publication features the photography of British astro-imager Nik Szymanek and covers a range of photographic methods from basic to advanced. Beautiful pictures of the night sky can be obtained with a simple camera and tripod before tackling more difficult projects, such as guided astrophotography through the telescope and CCD imaging.

Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!

Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.


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