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Book Reviews


Shrouds of the Night
Authors: David L Block and Kenneth Freeman

Publisher: Springer

ISBN: 978-0-387-78974-3

Price: £19.99 (Hb), 442pp


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This book, subtitled Masks of the Milky Way and Our Awesome New View of Galaxies, is essentially a chronology of astronomical photography from 1826 to the present day. Whilst the preamble is poorly written, Vera RubinÕs preface clearly sets context by explaining that the book is intentionally unconventional. The commentary by the authors occasionally alludes to religious beliefs but these in no way devalue the astronomical enquiry governed by the selection of images included.

Ten chapters take us through spiritual awareness of the heavens and then onto how the night sky, and in particular the deep sky, has been gloriously captured through a camera lens. The strength of the book is in the consistency of recalling famous astronomers and their observations, which in turn showcases compelling visual evidence.

I wish to take issue however, with the claim that some material has been uncovered by the authors themselves, suggesting authenticity of research. I do not argue that the authors have used occasional sources not readily available but I question the claim of almost pioneering usage. Furthermore, there are a couple of glaring errors, one of which involves the famous photograph of William HerschelÕs 40 foot telescope frame. The photographÕs reference provided in the book is incomplete and incorrect, suggesting that other references may have the same fate and that the authors should have double-checked their sources. I also take issue with some of the ŌBirr CastleÕ claims. In contrast, anecdotal quotations from a vast array of philosophers and astronomers segue favourably at junctions within the story.

I agree with the preface in that this book is a real mixture. As a photographic record, particularly of galaxies, this book is excellent but not as a serious study of related astronomical history.

Ian McClurg-Welland

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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