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Book Reviews


Portraits of Astronomers
Author: Lucinda Douglas-Menzies

Publisher: The author and the Science Museum

ISBN: 978-0-956-11390-9

Price: £12.50 (Pb), 96pp


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This book 'does what it says on the tin'. It consists of pictures of astronomers, mainly senior, well-known astronomers, mostly comprising head-and-shoulders shots, and with a heavy UK bias. If you are one of the lucky 38 illustrated, your relatives will no doubt be anxious to purchase a copy of this book.

Otherwise, it is difficult to see its point. It is in effect a catalogue of a travelling exhibition of these very portraits, but the itinerary will probably be over by the time this review appears. Why it is published as anything other than a supplement to the exhibition is not all clear. The choice of subjects appears arbitrary, including a number of faces familiar from the BBC's The Sky at Night, but by no means all (no Chris Lintott, for example). Did those excluded refuse to be photographed or were they simply not asked? The text, such as it is, tells us a little about each astronomer's approach to their work, but, again, since the choice of subjects is not very extensive, hardly represents a cross-section of what the astronomy profession was interested in, or concerned about, in the first decade of the 21st century.

The photographs are technically very good, although all are totally lacking in atmosphere except in the case of Sir Patrick Moore, who brings atmosphere to anything he is connected with, and Carole Mundell shown informally working on her laptop.

To summarise, this book is not worth buying, unless you are actually featured in it – in which case you should demand a free copy from the publisher and leave it lying around to impress family and visitors.

A.J. 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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