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Book Reviews


Introduction to Astronomy and Cosmology
Authors: Ian Morison

Publisher: Wiley

ISBN: 978-0470033340

Price: £32.50 (Pb), 341pp


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There's a lot to understand about modern astronomy, and this handily sized book has a good go at covering pretty much all of it in just 341 pages! It's not the first to embark on a complete introduction to astronomy and cosmology, but it's certainly one of the better offerings.

Morison's text, which began life as a series of lectures, is, successfully supplemented with a rich picking of glossy photographs that provide added interest and explanation. Only occasionally sounding a little dry, the text is bang up-to-date, and all cut up into convenient, self-contained sections that can be read in a dip-in, dip-out sort of way. Morison deals with everything from the big bang and dark energy to the different designs of telescope.

There are a few bloopers, though; he wags a finger at people who use the term 'The Theory of General Relativity', as we should be using 'The General Theory of Relativity'. Amusingly, on the very next page, he uses the wrong version!

What I felt Morison isn't so good at is making the maths, which makes regular and appropriate appearances in the text, as easy to understand as it could be. This is an introductory text, and I did think some clearer explanation of how the equations are manipulated might help many readers. Some of the explanatory diagrams are also a bit on the vague side. The diagram of the Sun's proton-proton nuclear reactions, for example, was difficult to grasp, even though I've studied them previously! On the plus side, he has a Technicolor Hertzsprung-Russell diagram to be proud of!


Inevitably, a book like this has to be compared with what I think are the very best of introductory texts, the Open University's Astronomy and Planetary Science course books.
Other than falling a bit flat on the maths explanations, I think there's very little on which to mark Morison down, so he's a close second to the OU; quite an achievement! Overall, it is a very well thought-out book that lucidly covers a comprehensive range of topics in an attractive format.

John Rowlands

2009 Yearbook
This 132-page special edition features the ultimate observing guide for 2009, a review of all the biggest news stories of 2008, in depth articles covering all aspects of astronomy and space missions for 2009, previews of International Year of Astronomy events and much, much more.
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Infinity Rising
This special publication features the photography of British astro-imager Nik Szymanek and covers a range of photographic methods from basic to advanced. Beautiful pictures of the night sky can be obtained with a simple camera and tripod before tackling more difficult projects, such as guided astrophotography through the telescope and CCD imaging.
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Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!
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Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
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