Martin's Must Reads: 'The Last Stargazers'
All of us at one time or another have looked at the incredibly beautiful photos of faraway stars and nebulas and wondered “How do they do that?” Emily Levesque in her book The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers describes the men and women who take the pictures and the telescopes they use.
Beginning with one of the first large telescopes located in Palomar, California, to the cutting-edge computer-controlled telescopes now being built in Chile, The Last Stargazers tells the history and science of astronomy that make such pictures possible.
Levesque goes into the complexity required to take the pictures but also explains that those photographs are only a small part of what the astronomer does. Much time and effort is spent on the other wavelengths that are emitted from stars and why that research is important. The book is filled with stories that intertwine threads of cutting-edge technology, money demands, scorpions, the occasional bear, and the ever-present political conflicts that threaten to shut astronomy down completely.
The author weaves these topics as she discusses the multi-million-dollar pieces of equipment whose only similarity to the telescope you had in your backyard is the name. The book includes just enough discussion of the physics behind the stars to interest the reader but not lose them in techno babble.
Any discussion of a science topic always seems to include the question “With all the problems we have in our land, why spend all the money to do this, after all they are just stars?” The author eloquently addresses this question.
If you are looking for a science book that is enjoyable and not overwhelming, you must read Emily Levesque’s book The Last Stargazers.