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Book Reviews


Heaven's Touch - From Killer Stars to the Seeds of Life, How We Are Connected to the Universe
Author: James B Kaler

Publisher: Princeton University Press

ISBN: 978-0-691-12946-4

Price: £16.95 (Hb), 250pp


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“Please enjoy the tour,” says James Kaler at the beginning of his book. With the avuncular Professor as our guide, we are taken on a whirlwind tour of the Universe as we know and understand it and how, possibly, we came to be and very nearly not to be. He has a pleasingly straightforward style and, wherever possible, tries to steer clear of complex scientific jargon. However, when he has to resort to this he explains things step-by-step and uses straightforward photographs and diagrams to explain himself. Most of the text will be accessible to the average lay reader with a basic grasp of chemistry and physics. However, sometimes the text can become a little over complicated and lose some relevance to the point in question.

Having said that Professor Kaler is at his best when portraying to the reader what I feel is really his best subject, that of star and planet creation. Here he picks up the reader’s interest and you become carried away on his infectious enthusiasm.

The tour takes us from Earth and the Moon and out into deep space to look at the origins of our planet before the friendly tour guide returns us home and draws all his topics together quite succinctly. The book itself has a pleasing monochrome style cover, which leads one to anticipate what may be some wonderful colour photographs of the beautiful cosmos and its phenomena inside the book. However, we are provided with only black and white diagrams and photographs. This is a little disappointing as I feel colour would have added realism and made things a little more interesting. This is only a minor point though; it is a book that will look nice on your shelf but which can also just be used as a quick ‘dip-in guide’ should you wish.

Professor Kaler has attempted to enliven what could be a complicated and uninteresting topic, and through linking everything together via his well explained, engaging text, he has admirably succeeded.

Andy Townsend

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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