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Book Reviews


Searching the Stars: The Story of Caroline Herschel
Author: Marilyn B Ogilvie

Publisher: The History Press

ISBN: 978-0-7524-4277-8

Price: £12.99 (Pb), 240pp


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Female astronomers have had to overcome all kinds of social and educational barriers unknown to men in attaining a high level of proficiency in astronomy, and Caroline Herschel was a prime example. Dedicating her life to assisting her brother William and latterly her nephew John in their surveying of the heavens, she forged a reputation as a talented observer by discovering eight comets and increasing the known number of nebulae from 100 to around 2,500.

In this chunky paperback, Marilyn Ogilvie places Caroline Herschel firmly in her social milieu, at a time when girls from well-to-do families were not expected to be anything more than decorative, and if from poorer families, were simply drudges. With her family undergoing an enforced move from Germany to the south of England in the early nineteenth century, Caroline was a little bit of both, but never married and ran her household for the benefit of her brother, who was quickly establishing a reputation in the UK as a pioneering user of large telescopes. His sister provided the ‘clerical’ support any careful scientist needs, but she soon proved adept at ‘sweeping’ the night sky for transient phenomena such as comets. The author might perhaps have offered more comparison with Scottish mathematician Mary Fairfax (described here as English) whose upbringing and struggle to educate herself demonstrate many parallels with Caroline Herschel.

Some careless errors have crept in. The Gold Medal for Science awarded to Caroline by the King of Prussia is referred to throughout as ‘The Large Medal’. The publisher’s blurb confuses the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) with the Royal Society of London, but an even greater disservice to the author was dumping on her one of the worst indexes this reviewer has ever seen. While this may not put off the intending purchaser, he or she might be well advised to examine a Caroline Herschel biography by Claire Brock (Icon Books, 2007) in the bookshop at the same time, and this reviewer would probably chose the latter, if only for its more flowing style, and coherent index.

Alexander Mullay

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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