"[A]ny stargazer would enjoy this joyous adventure through modern astronomy." — Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
"An astronomy professor captures the human stories—from the quirky to the luminous—of her discipline...entertaining, ardent tales from an era of stargazing that may not last much longer." — Kirkus Reviews
"Levesque does a wonderful job explaining the science behind astronomy as she conveys the awe and beauty of the universe, the dedication of the people who study it, and the excitement of discovery in this fascinating account that will appeal to fans of narrative nonfiction and fellow stargazers." — Library Journal
"The perfect primer for a future astronomer or an amateur astronomy buff, it captures the highlights, lowlights, and day-to-day life of the professional stargazer." — Zach Weinersmith, New York Times bestselling author/illustrator of Soonish and Open Borders
"Childhood stargazers who have since become inquisitive adults, and any fans of Sagan's Cosmos, will devour this book. " — Booklist
"If you've ever wondered what astronomers do—what they really do—and the human journey from the era of eyepieces to gigantic robotic cameras, The Last Stargazers puts you there with compelling honesty, following the scientists and students with hundred-ton telescopes as backdrop." — Erik Asphaug, author of When the Earth Had Two Moons
"Astronomy is dangerous. Wild (sometimes venomous) animals, thin air, heavy equipment, hazardous chemicals... Dr. Levesque captures all this with amusement and personal experience, making this a delightful read for everyone." — Phil Plait, astronomer and author of Bad Astronomy
"Emily Levesque is smart and funny, and her insider's tale of stars and the astronomers who study them bursts with color and energy." — Edward Dolnick, author of The Clockwork Universe
"Levesque's writing is witty and honest, and asks us all to reconsider our relationship with the Universe." — Science Focus
"Immensely readable, and worth recommending to anyone who ever saw a constellation, an eclipse or a shooting star, and wondered about giving chase." — Zenger News
"The awesome endeavours and intellectual adventures in the physical practice and gains in understanding that are the heart and passion of astronomers are gloriously portrayed from the mind of a wonderful practitioner, Emily Levesque. Her range of experiences and insights through the recent period of rapid developments and future planning in this progressive human effort gloriously reach out to everyone." — Professor Alec Boksenberg, former director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory
"Emily Levesque depicts the adventurous life of professional hands-on astronomers, from the top of the Andes, Chile through the Arizona cliffs to Big Island, Hawaii, telling stories of the cosmic silence of an observing night. ... I have hugely enjoyed this book. It is engaging, humorous, full of quotes and stories of well-reputed colleagues. To be read, before all astronomical observations become fully automatized!" — Professor Claudia Maraston, Eddington Medal for Astronomy 2018, University of Portsmouth
"The Last Stargazers is perfect for anyone who has ever wondered what it's like to actually be an astronomer, or who has dreamt of staring up at the stars. Amidst the stories of mishaps and mistakes is a surprisingly romantic view of the glory of exploration, taken one dark night at a time." — Dr. Chris Lintott, BBC The Sky at Night
"It's like catching a glimpse of the magic behind the curtain galaxies away and leaves you hanging on every spectacular word. A must read for anyone who has looked up at the sky and felt a sense of wonder as well as those considering the world of astrophysics and astronomy." — Tamara Robertson, host of Mythbusters: The Search, STEM speaker
"Emily's book is a compulsive read. It demonstrates what being an observational astronomer is really like—the highs, the lows and the unscheduled things that can happen at telescopes around the world! Give this book to every young person (especially the girls!) that you know who likes math and science." — Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Astrophysicist, Oxford
"Through captivating stories, Levesque gives us both a vivid and accessible inside look at the enigmatic mountain-top astronomers. A unique and engaging read." — Sara Seager, professor of astronomy at MIT
"Warm, engaging and packed with highly accessible science, The Last Stargazers is thoroughly entertaining and an impetus for readers to take up a little stargazing of their own." — Shelf Awareness
"Emily Levesque's The Last Stargazers takes you on a personal journey through the art, science, frustrations and passion of modern astronomy, especially those ever-evolving mountaintop tools that let us pry secrets out of the sky—those magnificent telescopes." — Brian Keating, author of Losing the Nobel Prize
"Immensely informative and inspiring, The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy's Vanishing Explorers is the perfect complement to a summer night under the stars." — BookPage
"The book is replete with anecdotes and the candid narrative style allows the reader a fly-on-the-wall view of the life of an astronomer. " — Nature Astronomy
Introduced to the wonders of the night sky as a toddler using a telescope in her backyard, Levesque (astronomy, Univ. of Washington, decides to become an astronomer. Here she combines memoir with the science of astronomy, written for general readers. She shares her own experiences, as well as those of dozens of friends and colleagues who study the universe. She relates the changes in large telescope observation techniques that led to the ability to control telescopes in remote locations from an office laptop, along with the different kinds of equipment that record myriad data from the universe. Levesque also details the increased participation of women in the field, discoveries confirming hypotheses, and how carefully planned observing time at telescopes can be derailed by high winds or an errant cloud. She also touches on the controversy over a planned new telescope in Hawaii. VERDICT Levesque does a wonderful job explaining the science behind astronomy as she conveys the awe and beauty of the universe, the dedication of the people who study it, and the excitement of discovery in this fascinating account that will appeal to fans of narrative nonfiction and fellow stargazers.—Sue O'Brien, Downers Grove, IL
An astronomy professor captures the human stories—from the quirky to the luminous—of her discipline.
Levesque, whose research “is focused on understanding how the most massive stars in the universe evolve and die,” got her first taste of formidable telescopes while a student at MIT. Hardly an amateur endeavor, the author was dealing with serious, massively expensive machines—e.g., at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, Kitt Peak in the Sonoran Desert, and Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Regardless of the gravity of her studies, there is plenty of romance and adventure in the recounting of her nights, whether she is standing in the cold beside the telescope looking through the eyepiece or contending with the giant tarantulas that find a home in the observers’ room. In a bright voice, Levesque covers wide ground, observing details both atmospheric—“the dark cool nights, the quiet hum and shift of moving telescopes”—and mundane: “laboring through the repetitive and tiring efforts required to get the data in the first place.” She tells fun stories of scorpions in the dormitories and swarms of ladybugs plaguing the telescopes, but she also looks at the history of sexism at the observatory and the cultural friction that may erupt around the positioning of a particular telescope. Perhaps where Levesque shines brightest is in her descriptions of the “raw human appeal” that comes from experiencing celestial phenomena, whether it’s accessible (eclipses) or arcane (evidence of gravitational waves and gamma ray bursts). There are moments of gratifying serendipity in discovering a new star classification. However, the author suggests, today’s remote viewing (i.e., the telescope in southern Argentina and the viewer in New York City), while a critical advancement regarding data collection, robs the thrill of making difficult journeys to distant telescopes.
Entertaining, ardent tales from an era of stargazing that may not last much longer.