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The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars Hardcover – July 30, 2009
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From The New Yorker
In 1894, fifteen years before his storied expedition to the North Pole, Robert Peary crossed a treacherous expanse of ice in Greenland in search of another prize: a massive meteorite laden with rare metals from outer space. In this hefty, industrious book, Cokinos retraces Peary’s steps, and those of other meteor “obsessives,” in an idiosyncratic hunt of his own. The book pairs, sometimes awkwardly, exciting tales of scientific adventure and unself-conscious rumination—particularly on the subject of the author’s failed first marriage, the pain of which, he insists, is “part and parcel of the hunt, my hunt, for the meteorite hunters.” As often as not, though, the original meteorite hunters had a more prosaic view of their quests. Peary, for instance, had a simple desire for glory and riches; when he finally found that meteorite, which the local Inuits had dubbed Woman (another, nearby, they called Dog), he called it “the brown mass.”
"A thrilling account . . . The author's enthusiasm is infectious in this chronicle of astronomical passion."
"Cokinos guides the reader along his search for the driving force behind the passions of meteorite scientists, collectors, and dealers that make the meteoritic community such a vibrant and contentious bunch. It is a journey well worth taking."
"[Cokinos's] enthusiasm . . . gives The Fallen Sky its core."
-The Wall Street Journal --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
As a former Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) participant, I felt his account and description of the experience was right on target. I had many moments in Antarctica where I thought "This is the most amazing experience of my life but now what?" Cokinos does the best job yet of describing the elation of going to Antarctica, but also the psychological burden of existing there and returning home.
It's rare that I start a book that I don't want to finish and that I really savor. This book was as meaningful to me as Michael Crichton's Travels, Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, or Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea. I strongly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in the history and discovery of meteorites.
I'm baffled by some of the claims that the book omits important pieces of information. I found a note about calcium-aluminum inclusions in a longer discussion of chondrules--see the reference to them in the index. I also found the balance between Cokinos's introspection and his recounting of important scientists and collectors to be perfect. It's a fine example of narrative nonfiction. It's clear that this book is well researched, thoughtful, and in this reader's opinion, a must read for anyone who has stared at the sky in wonder.
My intellectual side has been stimulated, I have laughed heartily and cried bitterly. So I am eagerly making time to read the remaining 400+ pages.
One small quibble: I wish there were a few photos for now I must see what the Willamette meteorite looks like after reading the wonderfully intrigueing description.
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