March 2, 2010

Our fascinating universe

The following books should provide a good introduction to our complex universe. They should be supplemented, however, with hands-on experience, such as using a telescope or visiting a planetarium or observatory. 

Science shows can also be very educational. TVO is currently airing a series called Cosmos, beginning tonight at 10 p.m. 

by Ellen Jackson
photographs and illustrations by Nic Bishop

The authors follow astronomer Alex Filippenko to the Keck and Lick Observatories (in Hawaii and California, respectively) to document his search for supernovae. In clear understandable prose, they describe the equipment used by Alex and his team, and the challenges they encounter as they study the vast night sky.

A slightly complex book about the history of astronomy, the development of telescopes, and the known facts about the planets, stars, and galaxies. Some concepts, such as refraction, reflection, and spectroscopy, may be difficult to grasp. The addition of experiments or activities would have helped. For readers who enjoy mathematics or physics and are not intimidated by small print.

A detailed look at the universe. Some of the activities sound quite complicated; more diagrams would have been helpful. One of the projects, Making a Planisphere, requires the tracing of detailed star maps, which may be frustrating. Also, the material for some experiments may require a shopping trip. Adults who are intimidated by construction should probably avoid this book.

note: At time of publication (2002), Pluto was classified as a planet. It is now called a dwarf planet.

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