Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril

Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril

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by Timothy Ferris
     
 

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Seeing in the Dark is a poetic love letter to the skies and a stirring report on the revolution now sweeping amateur astronomy, in which backyard stargazers linked globally by the Internet are exploring deep space and making discoveries worthy of the professionals. Timothy Ferris invites us all to become stargazers, recounting his lifelong experiences as an enthralled… See more details below

Overview

Seeing in the Dark is a poetic love letter to the skies and a stirring report on the revolution now sweeping amateur astronomy, in which backyard stargazers linked globally by the Internet are exploring deep space and making discoveries worthy of the professionals. Timothy Ferris invites us all to become stargazers, recounting his lifelong experiences as an enthralled stargazer, and capturing the exquisite experience when ancient starlight strikes the eye and incites the mind.

Reporting from around the globe -- from England and Italy to the Florida Keys and the Chilean Andes -- on the revolution that's putting millions in touch with the night sky, Ferris also offers an authoritative and magical description of what is out there to be seen, from the rings of Saturn to remote quasars whose light is older than Earth.

Astronomy is the most accessible and democratic of all the sciences: Anyone can get started in it just by going outside with a star chart on a dark night and looking up. A pair of binoculars suffices to see galaxies millions of light-years away, and a small telescope can probe what Ferris calls the "blue waters" of deep space. An accessible, nontechnical invitation to get to know the sky, Seeing in the Dark encourages readers to make the glories of the stars a part of their lives.

"The universe," Ferris writes, "is accessible to all, and can inform one's existence with a sense of beauty, reason, and awe as enriching as anything to be found in music, art, or poetry."

An appendix includes star charts, observing guides, and tips on how you can get involved with the night sky.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Amateur astronomers are the heroes of this latest opus from one of the country's best-known and most prolific science writers. Ferris (Coming of Age in the Milky Way) has a special place in his heart for these nonprofessionals who gaze into space out of wonderment and end up making discoveries about comets, the moon and the planets that change our understanding of the galaxy. Ferris recounts how he, as a boy growing up in working-class Florida, was first captivated by the spectacle of the night sky. He then looks at the growing field of amateur astronomy, where new technologies have allowed neophytes to see as much of the cosmos as professionals. The book introduces readers to memorable characters like Barbara Wilson, a one-time Texas housewife who turned to astronomy after her children were grown and has since helped found the George Observatory in Houston (where a number of new asteroids have been discovered) and developed a reputation as one of the most skilled amateur observers. Ferris also takes stock of what we know today about the cosmos and writes excitedly about the discoveries yet to come. With a glossary of terms and a guide for examining the sky, this book should turn many novices on to astronomy and captivate those already fascinated by the heavens. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Science writer and stargazer Ferris (The Whole Shebang) elaborates on his 1998 New Yorker essay about the renaissance of amateur astronomy, describing how advances in telescope design, electronics, and telecommunications have made it possible for amateur observers to discover new celestial objects. Improved technology and the sheer numbers of participants have also empowered amateurs to conduct round-the-clock or long-term research projects that complement the work of professional astronomers. Yet these same advances also render human eyes, hands, and sometimes even minds increasingly irrelevant to the practice of both amateur and professional astronomy. Perhaps as a counterpoint to this dismaying trend, Ferris frequently interrupts his narrative to introduce readers to individual amateur astronomers, from the well known (David Levy and Patrick Moore) to the more obscure or even surprising (Brian May of the rock group Queen). Appendixes provide useful tips and seasonal star maps (Northern Hemisphere only) for the beginning observer, facts and figures about various celestial bodies, and recommendations for further reading. Lyrical and engrossing, this book is highly recommended for public and academic libraries. [See the interview with Ferris on p. 112. Ed.] Nancy R. Curtis, Univ. of Maine Lib., Orono Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A first-rate science-writer (The Whole Shebang, 1997, etc.) delves into his lifetime passion for stargazing, and the result is essential reading for kindred spirits and all would-be astronomers. The heavens, with all the myth and majesty the term implies, are accessible to one and all, asserts Ferris (Emeritus/Univ. of California, Berkeley). Giving the reader a tour of everything from our Solar System's companion planets to the Milky Way, distant galaxies, and baffling giant clouds of dust or gas, he emphasizes what to look for, whether with naked eye, binoculars, or telescope. Throughout, Ferris interweaves the latest scientific information and speculation in a way that further whets readers' appetites. His visits with other amateur astronomers, some of whom have become legends in their own time, are equally inspirational; these people's dedication and visual acuity have led to important discoveries overlooked by the institutional professionals. "Patience and the desire to see are the most important things," states Barbara Wilson, who helped establish Houston's George Observatory, where amateurs have discovered scores of asteroids. Ferris advises that we'll need all the eyeballs we can get, amateur and professional, to identify and track potentially thousands of comets and asteroids whose orbits may be "randomized" by some future near-encounter with a larger body and cocked toward a potentially fatal collision with Earth. In perhaps the ultimate adventure in "remote seeing" today, Ferris walks the reader through the process of e-mailing a request for a slice of observation time and getting back the crisp digital image of the desired coordinates delivered via Internet direct from thecharge-coupled device (CCD) attached to a massive institutional telescope formerly accessible only to qualified professional astronomers willing to queue up and wait. Mysteries, menaces, and thrills for the skyward eye. Author tour

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780684865799
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
08/27/2002
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
6.56(w) x 9.54(h) x 1.22(d)

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