Nearest Star: The Surprising Science of Our Sun / Edition 1

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Overview

"Unlike the myriad points of light we gaze at in the night sky, our nearest star allows us to study the wonders of stellar workings at blindingly close range - from a mere 93 million miles away. And what do we see? In this book, two of the world's leading solar scientists unfold all that history and science - from the first cursory observations to the measurements obtained by the latest state-of-the-art instruments on the ground and in space - have revealed about the Sun. Following the path of science from the very center of this 380,000,000,000,000,000,000-megawatt furnace to its explosive surface, Nearest Star invites readers into an open-ended narrative of discovery about what we know about the Sun and how we have learned it."--BOOK JACKET.
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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
A brilliant, richly illustrated survey of the current state of solar knowledge...Golub and Pasachoff describe the sun's dynamism and effects on Earth in a crystalline, nontechnical fashion perfectly suited to nonspecialist readers.
— Gilbert Taylor
Nature
Solar physics is in something of a golden age. Recent observational results from highly successful space missions have significantly altered our understanding of the Sun's outer atmosphere, its magnetic-activity cycle and its influence on the Earth and the near-space environment...Nearest Star beautifully presents these and other recent advances for the general reader, while also giving a good historical perspective on our study of the Sun. The authors are especially well qualified to write a popular book on this topic...With the publication of this book, Harvard University Press continues a tradition of excellent books on the Sun for general audiences. Nearest Star is an up-to-date, authoritative and entertaining introduction to the Sun for the general reader. It represents popular science writing at its best--expert authors writing in a clear and lively style, without oversimplification, engaging the reader's creative thinking and imagination.
— John H. Thomas
Physics Today
Nearest Star tells the surprising story of our most important star, the Sun, and its relationship to our most important planet, Earth. It is a story with many facets, and multiple links to fundamental physics that might surprise as well as engage the reader. The book is beautifully written and conveys the love that the authors have for the subject...Nearest Star provides an excellent overview of our current understanding of the Sun and its effects on Earth.
— Ramon E. Lopez
Astronomy Now
Several books about the Sun have been published over the past few years and this is one of the best. It is well written, by two experts, and pitched at a level that should be intelligible to Astronomy Now readers.
— Peter Gill
Astronomy Magazine
Golub and Pasachoff do not simply present an account of scientific fact. Rather, they show us how the process of science works...Nearest Star will surely leave you with a renewed appreciation for the beauty, complexity, and importance of our nearset star, the sun.
— Jennifer Birriel
Journal of the British Astronomical Association
Nearest Star is written for the nonscientist and avoids mathematics altogether. It aims to present a general description of our current understanding of the Sun and its effects on our planets.
— Lee Macdonald
Astronomical Society of the Pacific
In this book, two of the world's leading solar scientists unfold all that history and science-from the first cursory observations to the measurements obtained by the latest state-of-the – art instruments on the ground and in space – have revealed about the Sun…Nearest Star invites readers into an open-ended narrative of discovery about what we know about the Sun and how we have learned it.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Taking advantage of the increased attention as the sun reaches the peak of its 11-year sunspot cycle, Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Golub and Williams College astronomy professor Pasachoff deliver a clear, detailed and broadly informative overview of the scientific study of our "nearest star" and its effects on our planet. Other recent books cover some of the same territory in more detail (the energy production and internal structure of the sun and other stars in Stardust by John and Mary Gribbin and The Magic Furnace by Marcus Chown; the vulnerability of modern technology to intense solar activity in The 23rd Cycle by Sten Odenwald), but this book shines in its discussion of the properties of the sun's turbulent outer layers (chromosphere, photosphere and corona). It provides space- and astronomy-loving readers in-depth information about the many challenging projects that produced or are producing that knowledge, about advanced projects on the drawing board or in conceptual stages and about Web sites where readers can find more details and up-to-date developments. On the human level, the authors describe practical techniques to enhance the thrill of observing a total solar eclipse. The book ends with a discussion of the interaction between solar and terrestrial phenomena, comparing human contributions to climate change to the climatic influence of solar variation. Amateur astronomers will learn much from Golub and Pasachoff's study. Illus. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Coauthors Golub (astrophysics, Harvard Smithsonian Ctr. for Astrophysics) and Pasachoff (astronomy, Williams Coll.) describe for a nonspecialist audience what is currently known of the structure of the sun, the source of its enormous energy, its history and future, its various effects on Earth and its atmosphere, and the fascinating phenomena that occur during total solar eclipses. Some relevant tales from the history of solar research are also included. The strength of the book is that it is a "state of the art" report from two bona fide experts in the field. Weak portions of the work include the introductory chapter, which plunges readers into the thick of the subject matter, and a section that describes various future space missions. The latter portion is tedious, with many acronyms and technical details. The authors would have done well to omit this section and devote more attention to the details of the nuclear fusion processes that supply the sun's energy. With these reservations, the book is recommended for public and academic libraries. Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
It may be "the story of one tiny star among the trillions that have come and gone during the past 15 billion years," but it sure makes for soul-stirring, mind-blowing reading. Golub (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and Pasachoff (Astronomy/Williams Coll.) have put together a superb profile of the sun. They don't assume any special knowledge on the part of their readers, so they explain their subject starting with broad overviews and theories-such as the birth of the sun, its composition, and the various tools used to understand its history and makeup (including spectroscopy, high-resolution imaging, and helioseismology). Although the progression into more complex material is gradual, the authors don't cut readers much slack: There may be no mathematical equations to wrestle with, but there is much discussion of parallax and yottawatt, Maunder minimums and limb darkenings, faculae, auroral electrojets, and the Transit of Venus. These are conducted in concise language, however, and they glide smoothly between fundamental questions (Just how come that great roiling sea of gas keeps on burning? Are stars solid?) and more arcane but immediately relevant topics (such as the nature and consequences of solar wind on Earth's magnetic field). Discussions of prominences, flares, and spicules can take your breath away, as will the considerations of zodiacal light and sunspots and total eclipses (although there is no mention of everyone's favorite, the green flash). A final overview of the sun's role in climate, and an outline of how humans have, in their ineptitude and to their disadvantage, overwhelmed certain solar influences wrap the proceedings up nicely. The sun issimplypeerless from any angle and this enlightening biography shows it in all its glory-as bright as daylight. (Color and b&w illustrations)
From the Publisher
Review of the first edition: 'In Nearest Star, two of the world's leading solar scientists give us a fascinating and informative account of our sun as a star … Golub and Pasachoff do not simply present an account of scientific fact. Rather, they show us how the process of science works … Throughout, the authors emphasize why and how we study the sun at many different wavelengths and what has been discovered by looking at the sun in each of these wavelength regimes. Nearest Star is a delight to read. Golub and Pasachoff transmit not only their obvious expertise but also a genuine affection for the subject. Nearest Star will surely leave you with a renewed appreciation for the beauty, complexity, and importance of our nearest star, the Sun.' Jennifer Birriel, Astronomy

Review of the first edition: 'The subtitle of Nearest Star is The Surprising Science of our Sun. And it is surprising: our knowledge of this normal dwarf star that happens to be all-important to life on Earth is very far from complete. Many puzzles remain, even if we know far more than we did a few years ago, before data from spacecraft became available. In any case, Leon Golub and Jay Pasachoff are splendid guides to the subject, as both are highly distinguished astronomers who have paid special attention to the Sun. Nearest Star is a comprehensive survey, dealing with all aspects of solar research. It is well written and well illustrated, and there is a good glossary and a useful bibliography … If you are looking for a reliable, up-to-date and very readable account of modern solar science, with special emphasis on Earth–Sun relationships, then this is one for you.' Sir Patrick Moore, New Scientist

Review of the first edition: 'The book gives readable accounts of the Sun's evolution from its earliest state to its final fate and the spectrum of its visible light, again set in the context of past discoveries … I was impressed by the descriptive nature of the text, which has no mathematics or complex physics. This is a book for amateur astronomers and scientists who want to know what are the latest findings about the Sun and about some of the developments that led to them.' Ken Phillips, Times Higher Education

Review of the first edition: 'A story with many facets and multiple links to fundamental physics that might surprise as well as engage the reader. The book is beautifully written and conveys the love that the authors have for the subject. Together, [the authors] are uniquely qualified to write a book on the Sun, and they have produced a truly fascinating tour, complete with an outstanding set of images. Nearest Star takes us on a multidimensional journey - in space, from the center of the Sun to the atmosphere of the Earth, and in time, from the Big Bang to our current arguments about global warming … In sum, Nearest Star provides an excellent overview of our current understanding of the Sun and its effects on Earth.' Ramon E. Lopez, Physics Today

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674010062
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Leon Golub is a Senior Astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and has been studying the Sun and solar-type stars since the Skylab missions in 1973–4 and the Einstein Observatory in 1978. He is the head of the Solar-Stellar X-ray Group at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and has been involved in building and flying cutting-edge space instrumentation for the past thirty years. He is Chair of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society and has written many popular articles on subjects ranging from astronomy and philosophy to music criticism.

Jay Pasachoff is a Professor of Astronomy at Williams College. He is a veteran of 56 solar eclipse expeditions, which have taken him all over the world to study the sun over the sunspot cycle. He received the Education Prize from the American Astronomical Society. His undergraduate textbooks in astronomy have been widely used. He is already involved in planning for education and public outreach for the 2017 total solar eclipse for which totality will stretch from Oregon to South Carolina and for which the whole of the continental United States and Canada will see at least a partial eclipse.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Introduction 1
2 The Once and Future Sun 28
3 What We See 51
4 What We Don't See 96
5 Eclipses 116
6 Space Missions 150
7 Between Fire and Ice 182
8 Space Weather 218
Bibliography 241
Glossary 245
Acknowledgments 255
Illustration Credits 257
Index 261
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