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First Light: The Search for the Edge of the Universe Paperback – October 29, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0812991857 ISBN-10: 0812991850

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 275 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (October 29, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812991850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812991857
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"There is a saying among astronomers that five billion people concern themselves with the surface of the Earth, and ten thousand with everything else," writes Richard Preston, best-selling author of The Hot Zone. And if you think these professional stargazers spend most of their time serenely peering into the night sky, guess again. Today's astronomers are world-class gadgeteers who scurry about giant (and often frigid) observatories tinkering with the mechanical and electronic tools of their trade. In First Light, they tangle with the Hale Telescope, one of the world's oldest and largest. This beautifully written book is highly recommended for anybody interested in astronomy. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA As the title suggests, this is a book on astronomy, but it is also a great deal more than that. Nominally, First Light is about the efforts of a group of astronomers who are attempting to map the edge of the known universe. Because the sheer size of the numbers and concepts involved in astronomy have an almost universal gee-whiz fascination, that subject is interesting reading all by itself. What really makes this book something special, however, are the portraits of the people involved: how they approach their work, how they interact with each other. What is made clear in First Light is that for all their genius, for all their magnificent achievements, these astronomers are just like the rest of us: subject to the same emotions and frustrations, foibles and shortcomings. With no index or bibliography, this is not a book for students who just want to get through their next science report, nor is it intended to be. Karl Penny , Houston Public Lib .
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Richard Preston is the bestselling author of The Hot Zone, The Demon in the Freezer, and the novel The Cobra Event. A writer for The New Yorker since 1985, Preston is the only nondoctor to have received the Centers for Disease Control's Champion of Prevention Award. He also holds an award from the American Institute of Physics. Preston lives outside of New York City.

Customer Reviews

Very well written documentary story.
Stephen Lambrecht
The author keeps the book moving (although again, he skips around a lot), and it should be enjoyable for anybody looking for a great read.
Rebecca S.
I bought a hardcover version for my wife who teaches high school Astronomy and Physics and she absolutely loves the book.
The Admiral

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 13, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This book easily makes my "ten best books ever" list. It's the story of the scientists using the Palomar 200-inch telescope to look for the edge of the observable universe. But it's more than that. Like an involving novel (even though this is non-fiction), it's also a portrait of the engaging, human, and sometimes quirky characters involved. Finally, First Light is a stylishly written, seductive explanation of what's at stake as the science team tries to "drill wildcat holes in look-back time." Even if you hate science and care nothing for astronomy, this book will charm and delight you
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By JW Barney on July 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I adore this book. Of course, I must give a disclaimer, I've always loved the subject of astronomy ever since I was very small. Unfortunately for me, I lacked the patience and the math skills to really delve into it, but books like Preston's, which are written for the layman but dare to delve a little, are a great read.
'First Light' follows two different groups of people: one working at the famed Palomar Telescope in Pasadena; the other, Carolyn and Eugene Shoemaker of the Shoemaker Comets fame. The book is rich with detail and lovingly paints a picture of the kindly, eccentric and brilliant people who inhabit that world. Especially wonderful are the analogies that help you understand how large the universe is when compared to objects around us (i.e., "Imagine the sun the size of the dot on this i. . .").
No, the writing isn't flawless, but the depth of detail and the easy flow of the narrative will keep you reading. . .
Highly recommended for all ages.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Doc Kinne on September 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
First Light starts out well by dealing with the Hale Telescope itself and the folks that work there (and in one case, actually keep the scope running). Preston also deals with some of the things the Hale had been used for years ago, concentrating on Dr. Schmidt's discovery of Quasars in the 1960s.
Part II deals with Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker's search for Trojan Asteroids orbit out near Jupiter. They used not the Hale Scope, but another, smaller, scope also on Mt. Palomar. While this is the best part of the book (the section on the Shoemaker's teaching Preston how to help them load film into the telescope is easily the best two pages of the book!), one wonders if it belongs here as this section deals neither with the Hale nor with anything near the edge of the Universe.
After the Shoemaker's section the book seems to lose its momentum and finally ends with little sense of closure. While you get an interesting sense of watching scientists at work this work is not presented as specific or highly interesting. Most of it is watching quasar candidates go by during observing runs on video screens.
In the end, this book has its moments, but is uneven in how it delivers them. If you're interested in a light read about this subject with little technical information and some (but not a lot) personality insights this book may be worth it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca S. on December 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
If you are somebody who loves astronomy, then look no further. While this isn't "the best book about astronomy ever written", it is a great book. I got this book when I was thirteen and have loved it ever since. The author tends to jump around a lot, which can be a little annoying and why I only gave it four stars instead of five. Although I liked the part about the Shoemakers, I don't see how that fits in with the purpose of the book. But aside from that, the section about the Shoemakers is really interesting and sometimes funny, like when Carolyn Shoemaker was teaching the author how to change film. The other astronomers are also very interesting, and the book helps debunk some of the myths about astronomers, such as they are all boring nerds, which some people still actually think. While I don't believe it's the "perfect" astronomy book, it makes astronomy seem much more human and relevant than you might think. The author keeps the book moving (although again, he skips around a lot), and it should be enjoyable for anybody looking for a great read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
First Light isn't a science popularization, like you might expect from authors such as Gould, Sacks, or Hawking. Instead, like the author's later book The Hot Zone, this is a very human story, told in an engrossing, narrative fashion. If you're looking for a galactic primer, there are better books. But if you're looking for a look at the daily life and work of astronomers on the cutting-edge, no better book has been written.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Preston's storytelling is compelling and very readable. The science of astronomy is accessible and its practitioners become real-life, normal human beings. Preston's writing is enlightening, instructional and engaging, without any condescension related to the science. Great book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is an engaging book about a subject which most people know little about. It surprised me so much the way it drew me in and taught me so much about this fascinating world of astronomy. I can't wait to read all his books
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 8, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Reading this not only provides you with lots of factual information about astronomy but also takes you into the lives of astronomers, how human they are despite their absolute brilliance. I was never much for astronomy before but this book incites such a great interest for the subject in its readers. the best thing about this is that although this book is about hard-core science, even a layman can understand and appreciate it.
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