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Book Reviews


Chasing the Sun
Author: Richard Cohen

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 978-0-74325-928-6

Price: £30 (Hb), 681pp


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Our Sun is two-faced. When we, the scientific and observational astronomers, look at the Sun all we see is a star. This physical entity is a massive sphere of gas radiating its centrally generated energy at a near constant rate throughout the Solar System, a system that it dominates gravitationally. Our Sun is a close-by, easily probed exemplar of a typical main sequence star, an accessible test-bed for the theories of stellar evolutionists, planetary cosmogonists, cosmo-chemists, nuclear particle astrophysicists, sunspot magnetohydrodynamicists and those fascinated by space plasmas. Historically we have struggled to measure how far away it is, to measure its photospheric temperature and to ascertain the source of its energy. Over time these problems have been the sharp spurs to our astrophysical advancement.

Richard Cohen’s Sun is different. Cohen is a journalist, a publisher and a professor of creative writing. The Sun he writes about is the muse of novelists and poets, the guide star of navigators, the object of reverence of a host of primitive religions, the light of our darkness and the inspiration of painters. Claude Monet started the Impressionist movement by painting sunrise over Le Havre. Where would John Betjeman’s Miss Joan Hunter Dunn have been without the being ‘burnished by Aldershot sun’? D H Lawrence insisted on the sexual regenerative potency of the Sun, medics berated it as a potential stimulant of skin cancer, musicians insisted that the Sun is best represented by the key of C major, clerics used the pagan feast of Sol Invictus as the birthday of Jesus and town planers use the sky path of the Sun as the guide to their city layouts.

Cohen’s book is inspirational. It masterfully pulls the mere astronomer away from narrow mindedness. It should help us share our meagre understandings of our central star with the multitude of other people who appreciate the Sun in vastly different ways. Read this book. You will enjoy every page and it will broaden your horizons hugely.

David W Hughes

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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