Stairway to the Stars

Barry Parker, Author Basic Books $27.95 (350p) ISBN 978-0-306-44763-1
This history of the Mauna Kea, Hawaii, astronomical observatories by physicist Parker (The Vindication of the Big Bang) is less science than journalism and is unlikely to hold the interest of any but the most amateur astronomers. Mauna Kea-the tallest peak in the Pacific-has four operating observatories and three that are still being constructed, including Keck I and II, the world's most powerful. How the most expensive observatories of five nations ended up arrayed around the caldera of a 14,000-foot volcano on the playground of the Pacific could have been a rich travelogue of modern science. But Parker oversimplifies the complex world of international big science while inflating the Mauna Kea story with basic astrophysics. Interviews with offsite astronomers and cosmologists remove the reader even further from the scene and serve to emphasize that Mauna Kea's real significance will be known only when the major telescopes now under construction, including the Smithsonian's VLA, come on line. Photos. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1994
Release date: 08/01/1994
Genre: Nonfiction
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