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Book Reviews


The Mythology of the Night Sky
Author: David E Falkner

Publisher: Springer

ISBN: 978-1-4614-0136-0

Price: £ 31.99 (Pb) 238pp


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I thought I was fairly clued up on basic constellation mythology, but after reading The Mythology of the Night Sky sub-titled An Amateur Astronomer’s Guide to the Ancient Greek and Roman Legends – it turns out I hadn’t even scratched the surface.

As the author forewarns, the tales of mythology that have earned the constellations their names and placing in the night sky are on a par with modern day soap operas, with tangled plots involving everything from love, lust and incest to jealousy, murder, deceit and punishment. Jupiter and his wife Juno seem to play a role in the majority of legends, with jealous Juno unleashing her wrath on the numerous illicit partners Jupiter lusts after.

Orion also has some secrets under his belt. Smitten with the seven sisters – the Pleiades – alas he was never able to catch them; Jupiter grew tired of the pursuit and placed them just out of his reach in the sky. In another Orion-related legend he was sent a scorpion to slay, having claimed there was no beast he couldn’t beat. The battle raged on and Orion, who had the ability to wade into oceans without drowning, sought refuge in the sea. Meanwhile, Moon goddess Diana – Orion’s romantic partner – was challenged by her brother Apollo, who did not like Orion, to fire an arrow at the speck on the horizon. Not knowing it was Orion she took aim and killed him. Distraught, she pleaded with Jupiter to place him in the stars, which he did, but he also placed the scorpion that lead to Orion’s eventual death on the opposite side of the sky, thoughtfully so they would never be seen at the same time.

Organised by seasons, the book tackles each of Ptolemy’s 48 constellations in turn, with individual chapters dedicated to the legends of Jason and the Argonauts, Hercules and Perseus. The legends of the planets are also tackled. Each legend is preceded by a brief description of the constellation, a star chart and, in some cases, a photo taken by the author to illustrate the constellation. Imaging details are included should the reader wish to photograph the constellations using a digital camera.

I enjoyed reading the book, but feel that £31.99 is a little steep.

Emily Baldwin

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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