From the book reviews:
“If you have ever wondered looking at a painting or a maybe while watching a film whether or not the astronomical objects are or were in the exact place as the artist depicted them or maybe they just added it to fill in an empty spot, then this book will be a delightful read for you. … you can find some quite famous paintings that will have their astronomical mysteries solved or about which you’ll find out a lot more.” (Kadri Tinn, AstroMadness.com, October, 2014)
“The book is in three parts, one dealing with art, the others with history and literature. … A good point is that the writing is straightforward and technical terms are avoided or explained. … I would … recommend the book. … the book is appealing to astronomers and non-astronomers alike and would make a nice present.” (Mona Evans, BellaOnline.com, July, 2014)
“The book is clearly set out, engagingly written, well referenced, and copiously illustrated. Art works are compared with recent and vintage photographs from the same view points. There is plenty of bibliography for the interested reader to follow up. One does not have to be an astronomer to enjoy it and I recommend it warmly — an illuminating read and also a good present for a non-astronomer.” (P. M. Williams, The Observatory, Vol. 134 (1240), June, 2014)
“Olson tells detective stories that cover an incredibly wide range of topics and well-known cases. He repeatedly comes up with surprising and evocative solutions, all with convincing proofs that scholars should have picked up decades or centuries earlier. The exciting revelations on famous cases make Celestial Sleuth a unique book. … Celestial Sleuth has become my all-time favorite astronomy book because of its beauty and fun, as well as its many startling and convincing new results.” (Bradley E. Schaefer, Sky & Telescope, May, 2014)
“Donald Olson, with colleagues and students, has published many Sky & Telescope articles that use astronomy to explore mysteries from history, art, and literature. Olson … has now collected these and additional pieces in Celestial Sleuth. … If you love astronomy, art, history, or literature you will enjoy Celestial Sleuth and probably want to give it to teachers, students, friends, and family.” (Eric L. Altschuler, Science, Vol. 343, March, 2014)
“Don Olson, a professor of astronomy at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, has worked out a method of identifying locations and times for paintings from a combination of astronomical circumstances—such as shadows, tides, and positions of the moon and stars in the sky—and contemporary records such as journals or diaries. … I found Olson's book delightful and interesting to read, as it linked the science of the skies with human events.” (Jay M. Pasachoff, The Key Reporter, keyreporter.org, February, 2014)
From the Back Cover
Many mysteries in art, history, and literature can be solved using “forensic” astronomy, including calculating phases of the Moon, determining the positions of the planets and stars, and identifying celestial objects. In addition to helping to crack difficult cases, such studies spark our imagination and provide a better understanding of the skies. Weather facts, volcanic studies, topography, tides, historical letters and diaries, military records and the friendly assistance of experts in related fields help with the work.
Topics or cases pursued were chosen for their wide public recognition and intrigue and involve artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet; historical events such as the Battle of Marathon, Julius Caesar's invasion of Britain, and World War II; and literary authors such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Mary Shelley.
For each historical event influenced by astronomy, there is a different kind of mystery to be solved. For example, how can the Moon help to explain the sinking of the Titanic and a turning point of the American Civil War? For each literary reference to astronomy, which celestial objects were being described and was the author describing an actual event?
Follow these exciting investigations with Donald Olson, a master “celestial sleuth,” as he tracks down the truth and helps unravel mysteries as far back as ancient history and as recent as the haunting paintings of Edvard Munch.