The Supernova Story

Laurence A. Marschall, Author Plenum Publishing Corporation $22.95 (296p) ISBN 978-0-306-42955-2
On February 23, 1987, astronomers the world over rushed to their telescopes and electronic instruments to observe one of the rarest and most spectacular of cosmic eventsthe birth of a supernova in the nearby (only 160,000 light years away) Large Magellanic Cloud. What they saw confirmed many of their theories, but also left some abiding puzzles. Marschall, professor of physics at Gettysberg College in Pennsylvania, here presents a lucid history of supernova research culminating in an engrossing account of the discovery of Supernova 1987A. The explosion of Supernova 1987A released more energy in 10 seconds than is produced by an entire spiral galaxy of hundreds of millions of stars in a year. To set the stage, Marschall notes that ancient astronomers, particularly in China, had recorded many supernovae and thought that they were merely atmospheric phenomena. Nowadays, supernovae are known to be titanic explosions signaling the end of the lives of massive stars. Supernovae create the chemical elements that make up the earth and our bodieswe are literally made of atoms created in the hearts of stars. The book is a wonderous romp through astrophysics written by an expert guide. (October)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1988
Release date: 10/01/1988
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