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Book Reviews


Starlight: An introduction to Stellar Physics for Amateurs
Author: Keith Robinson

Publisher: Springer

ISBN: 978-1-4419-0707-3

Price: £22.95 (Pb), 286pp


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There’s no escaping it: starlight, in its various guises, is the way in which we learn about much of the cosmos. In this lovely text on the physics of stars, Keith Robinson takes us by the hand in engaging and easy-to-understand language through topics that, at first glance, appear daunting. It’s nice to see mathematics explained at the very beginning of the text, so that even those with little maths to their name can quickly get up to speed. What sets this book apart is that the maths is made appealing and doesn’t descend like so many others into bewildering and unnecessary complexity. In fact, it’s possible to understand stellar physics, when presented in this fashion, with little more than simple algebraic equations and just a pinch of chemical equations. The text builds up logically and clearly in largely self-contained sections from calculating the distance to the stars, to apparent and absolute magnitude and how the inverse square law links them, to the evolution of stars.

There’s a very extensive and lucidly-written section on how light is emitted, absorbed, scattered and generally passed to and fro in its endless attempt to make it out of a star’s core and into the wider Universe. The book ends with a description of what happens when light plummets through the depths of our own atmosphere and to our eyes.

This is a well-conceived and executed book and leaves the reader, whatever the starting level, with a thorough grounding in stellar physics. However, the publishers have sadly chosen to skip on colour graphics, which is a great pity for a book about the rainbow world of starlight – a Hertzsprung–Russell diagram just doesn’t work in black and white.

Without understanding starlight, we can understand very little about the Universe, so it’s lucky that Keith Robinson has done such a wonderful job of creating this essential and highly recommended text for us amateurs!

John Rowlands

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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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