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Vox45

Book suggestion - Your favorite read

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I just finished reading the excellent 'Longitude' by Dava Sobel and, my birthday coming soon, I'm thinking of starting a collection of astro related books. I've started my collection with the Burnham's Celestial Handbook vol I, mostly for sentimental reasons. The 1st chapter is wonderful, the best introduction to astronomy I've ever read. The rest is a different beast, a catalog of observable objects with notes.

I'm mostly interested in biography of great Astonomers (Kepler, Brahe, Copernic,etc) So, I would gladly like to hear from the community about which book(s) on astronomy related subjects were the best read for you ?

I'm sure people will recommend 'Making every photons count' ... It is on my list ;)

Edited by Vox45

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I'll preface this by saying I'm a sucker for the books by The Folio Society, but...

This is beautiful and on my want for xmas list!

Think you'll like it too!

Edited by Bob Howard
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One of my favourite astro-books (although I would admit that it is a bit of a niche market) is called Lost Stars by Morton Wagman [or, to give it its full title, Lost, Missing and Troublesome Stars from the Catalogues of Johannes Bayer, Nicholas Louis de Lacaille, John Flamsteed and sundry others - you can no doubt see why it is usually abbreviated], which goes through the history of the lettering (Bayer, etc) and numbering (Flamsteed) of stars, together with a fully annoted catalogue.

If you have any interest in knowing why virtually every modern star atlas wrongly lists Bayer's υ And as being the same as Flamsteed's 50 And (it isn't, it's HD 10307, some  1½° away from 50 And, which is HD 9826) then this is the book for you. If you aren't, then I would probably recommend you avoid it!

Thanks.

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houu I knew people here would be up to the task ! Great suggestions !

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There is a thread about inspirational books on the BAA's forum:

https://www.britastro.org/node/7858

Even though "outsiders" probably think "astronomy is all the same", there is a vast array of sub-genres under the heading of astronomy. And I suspect while I might find one book on the history of say the telescope interesting, I might never want to read another one. I think as you read articles and online snippets your taste buds get a sense of what might turn your brain on; hearing about Tycho Brahe's alloy nose and how he lost the end of his nose made me want to read about him, and a TV programme about Einstein which mentioned Eddington made me want to read about him. I'm not sure why I became interested in Barnard, but again he is another fascinating character. Maybe biographic books are not for you, and you'd enjoy old books on specific topics, like Peek's book on Jupiter, or a Victorian account of astronomy by Robert Ball. Many of these books can be obtained second hand for very little. One of my favourite books, and one that got me into the history of astronomy is by Patrick Moore:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Great-Astronomical-Revolution-1543-1687-Epilogue/dp/1898563187/ref=sr_1_29?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473083149&sr=1-29&keywords=moore+history+of+astronomy

Again, a copy can be obtained for under £3 which included P&P.

If you are really living in Paris, then you have a treasure trove of heritage right on your doorstep:

https://www.obspm.fr/-histoire-et-patrimoine-.html?lang=en

James

 

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I enjoy everything astro so there is a lot to choose from. I do have a thing for biographies and the history of discoveries. After reading about the longitude story I am now planning a visit to Greenwich ;)

I do have the chance of living in Paris so the link you provided is a blessing. Even after living here for 13 years, I've never had the opportunity to visit the place...

Thank you for those links!

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A compliment to Bob Howard's suggestion is Galileo's Starry Messenger or Sidereus Nuncius. It's a very short work, more a pamphlet than a book, but it is more or less the first light report of the telescope. There are English translations in books by Stillman Drake, William Shea and Albert Van Helden, and online available at  people.reed.edu/~wieting/mathematics537/sideriusnuncius.pdf   There's a good scan of the original first edition in Latin of 1610 at https://digital.libraries.ou.edu/histsci/books/1466.pdf   This copy, now in the library of Oklahoma University, was presented by Galileo to the Italian poet and playwright Gabriello Chiabrera and is signed on the title-page. A first edition is likely to cost you over $600,000, unless of course you can find one knocking around a Parisian flea-market :book1:.

Drake and Shea are excellent writers on Galileo, and Van Helden is an authority on early telescopes. Additionally Maurice Finocchairo is very good, especially on Galileo's problems with the Church. I also recommend Mario Biagiioli's Galileo's Instruments of Credit and more generally, Atle Naess's Galileo Galilei, When the World Stood Still.

On Tycho Brahe, there are good studies by Victor Thoren Lord of Uraniborg, and J. R. Christianson On Tycho's Island. Kitty Ferguson's Tycho & Kepler is another a good read.

Among other books written by Dava Sobel, A More Perfect Heaven, How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos is very enjoyable. Owen Gingerich has also written on Copernicus. His The Book Nobody Read, chasing the revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus examines the early influence of his theories.

As you are based in Paris, I'll mention James Lequeux who has written excellent biographies of two of the 19th century directors of the Paris Observatory available in French or in English translation; Francois Arago, A 19th Century French Humanist and Pioneer in Astrophysics and Le Verrier, Magnificent and Detestable Astronomer. Lequeux has also translated William Tobin's fascinating biography of Leon Foucault into French. Jerome Lamy is another French writer on the history of astronomy. His La Carte du Ciel documents the late 19th century project to make a photographic atlas of the stars.

Finally two books that I haven't yet seen but which may add to Sobel's Longitude are the catalogue to an exhibition at Greenwich, Finding Longitude: How Ships, Clocks and Stars Helped Solve the Longitude Problem by Richard Dunn and Rebekah Higgit, and a collection of essays edited by Higgit on Maskelyne: Astronomer Royal. Both published in 2014.

 

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4 minutes ago, Putaendo Patrick said:

Finally two books that I haven't yet seen but which may add to Sobel's Longitude are the catalogue to an exhibition at Greenwich, Finding Longitude: How Ships, Clocks and Stars Helped Solve the Longitude Problem by Richard Dunn and Rebekah Higgit, and a collection of essays edited by Higgit on Maskelyne: Astronomer Royal. Both published in 2014.

 

Wow thank you so much for all those references ! reading you made me want to get up and run to the nearest bookstore :)

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My favourite read has got to be ....... "Hutchinson's - Splendour of the Heavens ". 

A truly magnificent work with many contributing authors, just shy of a thousand pages, and with about as many photos or illustrations. Our two volume copy dates from 1923.  It's one of those books when once opened, is difficult to put down.  :smile:

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Edited by L8-Nite
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They are splendid indeed :)

 

Edited by Vox45

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Got a couple of Patrick Moores books that I like; one called 'The Unfolding Universe', and the other  called 'Countdown - how nigh is the end' written when Halley's Comet returned which is full of Patrick's humour about predictions of the end of the world! :) 

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There is a series of American books "Masters of Modern Physics", which are by famous scientists about their lives and about the science [and other matters]. There are lots of them, and some are quite interesting, and as with many second hand books, some can be picked up at next to nothing if you hunt around, whilst others are priced in the hundreds of pounds. 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Visit-Universe-Masters-Modern-Physics/dp/0883187922/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1473160045&sr=8-3&keywords=Virginia+Trimble

James

 

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Burnham's books are my favourites, but apart from those, my favourite books other than atlases and reference books are Gravity's Fatal Attraction by Begelman and Rees, and The Complex Lives of Star Clusters by by Stevenson.

Both are hugely interesting and thought provoking.

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The project Gutenberg has more than a few free titles on astronomy and astronomers which you might like, especially if you have an e-reader. Here are a few links to search results from their database:

e-ink gives a good reading experience even in bright sunlight and you can store many titles on one device. And if you read with ambient light the battery lasts thousands of page turns before you have to recharge.

This looks like an interesting book: Great Astronomers by R. S. Ball

Edited by Ruud
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13 hours ago, Ruud said:

The project Gutenberg has more than a few free titles on astronomy and astronomers which you might like, especially if you have an e-reader. Here are a few links to search results from their database:

e-ink gives a good reading experience even in bright sunlight and you can store many titles on one device. And if you read with ambient light the battery lasts thousands of page turns before you have to recharge.

This looks like an interesting book: Great Astronomers by R. S. Ball

Hmmm very interesting! Thank for all those links. I have to admit that I am a sucker for hard copies but I've been wanting to get a Kindle for a long time to see if I would enjoy it.

Looks like this is the perfect occasion to take the plunge ;)

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This topic is extremely interesting. Lots of links and suggestions!

I read Arthur Koestler's The Sleepwalkers - A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe once. It's not an easy book to read, maybe disturbing in some passages... but deeply fascinating. It changes a bit our way of looking at these great figures as Copernicus and Thyco. 

A book I really LOVE is The Hunt for Planet X - New World and the Fate of Pluto (2009) by Govert Schilling. Written and published before New Horizon. It talks about more recent astronomy... Lots of hidden figures in recent astronomical history. it's worth it. In the first part of the book, Govert narrates the discoveries of Uranus and Neptune, but the real core of the book is that untold, brilliant story of the discovery of Pluto and the other TNOs. Govert investigated it in deep. 

(I apologize for my bad English - it's not my native language - I'm still learning! :smiley:)

A few images of our copy:

IMG_20160907_134338.jpgIMG_20160907_134345.jpg
 

 

 

Edited by Stargzalex
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3 hours ago, Vox45 said:

Hmmm very interesting! Thank for all those links. I have to admit that I am a sucker for hard copies but I've been wanting to get a Kindle for a long time to see if I would enjoy it.

Looks like this is the perfect occasion to take the plunge ;)

My Kindle has been my favorite technical device among all devices we have brought into the house in the last decade.

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1 hour ago, Stargzalex said:

This topic is extremely interesting. Lots of links and suggestions!

I read Arthur Koestler's The Sleepwalkers - A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe once. It's not an easy book to read, maybe disturbing in some passages... but deeply fascinating. It changes a bit our way of looking at these great figures as Copernicus and Thyco. 

A book I really LOVE is The Hunt for Planet X - New World and the Fate of Pluto (2009) by Govert Schilling. Written and published before New Horizon. It talks about more recent astronomy... Lots of hidden figures in recent astronomical history. it's worth it. In the first part of the book, Govert narrates the discoveries of Uranus and Neptune, but the real core of the book is that untold, brilliant story of the discovery of Pluto and the other TNO. Govert investigated it in deep. 

(I apologize for my bad English - it's not my native language - I'm still learning! :smiley:)

A few images of our copy:

IMG_20160907_134338.jpgIMG_20160907_134345.jpg
 

Yes yes I remember someone mentionning that book and forgot about it ! Thanks for sharing; I will add this book to my list :)

 

 

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Perhaps a bit off topic, but I can't resist recommending:

Carrying the Fire - Michael Collins

For those (few people?) who are wondering: Collins was the command module pilot on Apollo 11. He wrote this book himself (no ghost writer, and did a fine job) and it's a great read. Still the best book I've read that covers the space race era.

 

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For anyone new to the history of astronomy, there is a lovely big book by Dennis Mammana called "Star hunters: the quest to discover the secrets of the universe"; it is 26 years old (1990) but has a great account of the people who have influenced the advancement of the science from the dawn of man to the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. It has all the commoner names and a few more and is loaded with images. It is big, about 15" high and an inch thick, but you can still get copies of it online for under £5. It is very easy to read and could be read in a day if you put your mind to it and didn't have anything else to do.

James

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Star-hunters-discover-secrets-universe/dp/0894718754

[Other second-hand retailers probably stock / advertise it too]

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Very impressed with all these suggestions. SGL members are the best :thumbsup:

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Webbs " Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes" is a good read, fascinating to learn what amateurs of yesteryear observerved through a whole range of optical equipment. Very inspirational.     :icon_biggrin:

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Donald E Osterbrock's biographies of Walter Baade and George Willis Ritchie (Pauper and Prince) are excellent.

I also heartily enjoyed this one. https://www.amazon.com/First-Light-Search-Edge-Universe/dp/0812991850  It's a very human account of the working life at the Palomar telescope. It looks at what the astronomers are doing, at who they are, at their personalities and quirks. I loved it. And it contains one of the best one liners I've ever read, but no spoilers!

Olly

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