AN INTIMATE LOOK AT THE NIGHT SKY
"[W]hat kind of intimacy can one have with a universe of 100 billion galaxies, each galaxy containing one trillion stars...?" asks astronomer and Boston Globe science columnist Raymo (365 Starry Nights, etc.). He offers two answers. "First,... bring to mind the Big Bang, the out-rushing snowstorm of galaxies, the seething stars, the whirling planets, everything revealed by the telescopes... We carry a universe in our heads. It doesn't get much more intimate than that." Second, the discovery of that vast universe is "a story of human curiosity, human ingenuity, human courage." Arranged in 12 chapters corresponding to the months of the year, this book opens by transporting readers, eyes closed with Haydn's The Creation oratorio playing in the background, to one of those increasingly rare spots where artificial lighting does not pollute the pure darkness. When a choral whisper followed by a fortissimo C-major chord announces, "And there was light," Raymo advises readers to open their eyes to "Stars. Planets. The luminous river of the Milky Way.... [Y]ou will feel that you have been witness to the Big Bang." Each chapter illuminates a different scientific theme and ends with two star maps, one describing "What to See" and the other "What to Imagine" in the month's night sky. The book closes with a revelation. "Science illuminates nature but does not deplete its mystery. Science at its best... is an almost religious activity." By those criteria, and by any other, this is science at its best. Illus. (May)
Forecast:This is the astronomy book for literate newcomers to the art of star-gazing. Display and handselling should help it move out of the stores. It's also an Astronomy Book Club main selection.