- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Hill and Wang (January 23, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0809034077
- ISBN-13: 978-0809034079
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,909,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Chasing Hubble's Shadows: The Search for Galaxies at the Edge of Time
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From Publishers Weekly
There are at least 127 billion potentially observable galaxies in the universe, according to science journalist Kanipe (A Skywatcher's Year). The Hubble Space Telescope allows scientists to penetrate the distant shadows of the readily observable and to uncover traces of the earliest galaxies' birth. Kanipe follows in the footsteps of the great astronomer Edwin Hubble and his successors in this deeply enjoyable book, which is part memoir and part scientific detective story. Kanipe chronicles the development of deep space astronomy, traveling, for example, to the 10-meter telescopes atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and observing a galaxy in the making with astronomer Richard Ellis, who has already discovered at least 12 previously unobserved galaxies. By 2011, NASA will be able to probe the universe's dark ages when it launches the James Webb Space Telescope, which will offer the chance to gaze 180 million years back, to the births of many galaxies and stars. Kanipe's breathless writing conveys his own excitement over the revelations that new advances in astronomy can tell us about our planet and our place in the universe. 8 pages of color illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Current research on the earliest galaxies engages the interest of astronomy journalist Kanipe. Reporting that the science has been revolutionized by the image of the Hubble deep field, the first baby portrait ever made of the universe by the Hubble Space Telescope, Kanipe explains how astrophysicists are interpreting the ruddy "blobjects" appearing in the picture. Their distance is a crucial question, and the basis for the answer (an astounding 12 to 13 billion light years) emerges in the author's explanation of cosmological measuring sticks such as supernovae. Of most interest to scientists, however, is the evolutionary connection between the protogalaxies and the beginning of the universe. Piecing together the first billion years of the cosmos is Kanipe's main focus. He starts with demarcations of the epoch, including a dark era in which thick gas blocked light; a "reionization" era coinciding with the formation of the first stars; and then their conglomeration into galaxies. Due to Kanipe's clarity on technical points, general readers will be as excited by the discovery as cosmologists. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
What was the universe like then and what can we learn about the properties of the universe and about its evolution from the dim light given off by those very distant galaxies?
What science journalist Jeff Kanipe is trying to do in this book is bring the general reader up to date on the latest discoveries and understandings in astronomy and how these discoveries are leading to a better understanding of cosmology. Do galaxies look different as we go back in time? Clearly the very first galaxies consisted of stars containing only hydrogen and helium. How were these stars different from the stars we see around us, from our own sun? And what about the shape and characteristics of the first galaxies? Were they spirals, barred or normal, ellipticals or irregulars? And what role does dark energy and dark matter play in their formation?
Kanipe gives up-to-date answers to these questions, and this is one of the strengths of this readable book. Events in astronomy and cosmology move quickly. Books that are even a few years old will be out of date in certain respects. I am always interested in what is, for example, the latest estimate of the age of the universe. Kanipe gives a age of about 14 billion years, which means that light from the most primordial event comes to us from a distance of about 14 billion light years. Actually it is a little less than this since there was a so called "dark age" that lasted until about 13.66 billion years ago at a red shift of (gulp!) 1000. Kanipe typically uses red shift measurements instead of light years to express both distance and time. For example an object 7.3 light years away has a red shift of 0.9. If we look back a mere 70 million years the red shift is a tiny 0.005.
One of the most interesting parts of the book is on Kanipe's visit to Mauna Kea, Hawaii where the two great Keck telescopes are housed. He makes vivid the experience of being with the astronomers at their camp at 9,000 feet and atop the mountain in the cold, still air at nearly 14,000 feet. Kanipe's story integrates knowledge from telescopes around the world, including that from infrared, radio and other telescopes.
One of the things I like best about the book is that there isn't a lot of repetitive history. Instead, the book is devoted to what is happening now in astronomy. The only difficulty is that there is a lot of information to absorb and some of the ideas are unusual. The terminology also requires some effort to get used to, but Kanipe eschews most jargon and uses almost no mathematics.
There are some nice color prints in the middle of the book, an index and a bibliography.
The book is not technical, so it is easy to assume, (mistakenly), that the book is suitable for anyone interested in the subject. The problem is that even though the writing is non-technical, Kanipe explains very few concepts. For example, Kanipe talks a lot about redshift and reionization in a non-technical way, but he never really provides a clear introductory explanation of them. You don't need a degree in astronomy to read this book, but you should be familiar with the basic concepts if you want to get the most from it.
Interestingly Kanipe does explain a few basic concepts, but this is sporadic at best. I had to wonder who Kanipe's intended audience was. For example, within the first few pages Kanipe talks about astronomers looking for galaxies with redshifts in the range of 3 to 5 without ever explaining what it means for a galaxy to have such a redshift. Okay, no problem with that. Perhaps Kanipe is writing for an audience he expects would know what a redshift of 5 means, yet only a few pages later Kanipe seems to assume his audience will not know what a spectrum is as he explains how the purpose of a certain telescope is to "separate the light of a very faint galaxy into its component colors, or wavelengths, the result being a narrow band of bright and dark lines called a spectrum." Huh? What audience does not need an explanation high redshift galaxies, but does need an explanation of a spectrum? I expect that Kanipe was trying to make the book accessible to as wide an audience as possible, but unfortunately he only provided a few gratuitous explanations of basic concepts. My concern is that if you scan through the book and see something like the above quote, it is easy to mistakenly assume the book is accessible to anyone, when in truth the basic concepts explained are too random and too few to effectively make the book accessible and enjoyable to those not already reasonably familiar with the subject.
Another aspect of Kanipe's writing to be aware of is his choice of words. It reminded me of reading "Lord of the Flies". Here are a few examples of what I mean:
"the protean objects stippling deep surveys"
"dark matter, the chimeric material"
"when expansion was clearly more allegro"
"the very skin of this alluvial structure"
"the microwave photons broke free from an effluvium of electrons and protons"
"perhaps dark energy and dark matter are hermaphroditic in nature"
"a feathery swirl of diaphanous light wrapped like a watch spring around a bright central sprocket"
"the beautiful cochlear appearance of many normal spiral galaxies"
"perhaps halos are a kind of palimpsest of galactic evolutionary history"
"some of the pithy remnants of these tidally stripped dwarf galaxies"
"it's worth providing some record, however mercurial, of the impressive gains"
"in the study of this empyrean armature we call the universe"
Some people will enjoy Kanipe's choice of descriptive words, but for me he went overboard. Just be aware of this style because I don't think it is for everyone.
As I said, I believe this book will appeal most to those who are already reasonably familiar with the subject, and who are interested in hearing about on-going research. I certainly did walk away with a feeling of having glimpsed into the lives and work of galactic observational astronomers. In this Kanipe succeeds quite well. He passionately describes numerous observational projects and provides extensive quotes from the astronomers doing the research. He also indirectly, though not so subtly, argues for the continued funding of the Hubble Space Telescope and other projects. Certainly I would have no argument with him there.
In the end I gave the book three stars. This was not my kind of book, but I believe it has an audience. It is not a technically difficult book by any means, and it does give a pretty nice review of ongoing research, but to really enjoy the book, it will be helpful if you are reasonably familiar with basic concepts in galactic astronomy and cosmology. For such a person, and especially someone who enjoys descriptive, almost poetic language, this could be a very enjoyable read. Kanipe obviously put a lot into the book, and he does give a feel for the work astronomers are doing. It has its place, but in the end it didn't make my list of favorites.
Chasing Hubble's Shadows is also mainly about the frontiers of cosmology - discoveries that are being made now, not rehashes of old science as so many astronomy books can be. I felt as if I were traveling along with the researchers as they pushed the boundaries of knowledge ever-farther.
Highly recommended for anyone who wonders how the universe came to be - and isn't that everyone?