This is a delightful little book, aimed at relative newbies to astronomy. It provides an outline of astronomical science and how this knowledge has been achieved.
Its claim to be an introductory guide does not diminish its scope. It deals with the arrangement of the sky, the behaviour and properties of the Solar System’s family, the structure and life of stars and thence to cosmology. Even the relatively new field of exobiology is given treatment. Underlying all is the thread of how knowledge of the universe has come to light and the advancing tools used for its exploration.
This primer’s format gives each subject thoughtful, concise treatment, in manageable bite-sized chunks. This makes it possible to easily absorb one or perhaps two of its chapters in a single sitting. Within the text, one piece of information slips imperceptibly into the next, gently building up a knowledge base, until by a chapter’s conclusion a wealth of information has been absorbed.
The author’s skill at explaining difficult or convoluted concepts simply is well demonstrated. Taking just one example, the approach used to weigh the components of a binary star system is so elegantly explained that it is fully accomplished within a single small paragraph. Technical terms have been kept to a necessary minimum, with even these being addressed by a fulsome glossary.
The production quality is remarkably lavish, given the cover price. Indeed, I was unable to open the book at any page (save in the glossary) that did not present one or more full colour images or diagrams.
Completion of this book will leave the reader more than satisfactorily armed to deal with all they meet afterwards in the field of astronomy. The book therefore succeeds very well in its aim as an astronomy primer, making it an excellent companion for anyone with a new telescope who wishes to understand what they are looking at.
Reviewed by Steve Ringwood