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An Intimate Look at the Night Sky Hardcover – May 1, 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"[W]hat kind of intimacy can one have with a universe of 100 billion galaxies, each galaxy containing one trillion stars...?" asks astronomer and Boston Globe science columnist Raymo (365 Starry Nights, etc.). He offers two answers. "First,... bring to mind the Big Bang, the out-rushing snowstorm of galaxies, the seething stars, the whirling planets, everything revealed by the telescopes... We carry a universe in our heads. It doesn't get much more intimate than that." Second, the discovery of that vast universe is "a story of human curiosity, human ingenuity, human courage." Arranged in 12 chapters corresponding to the months of the year, this book opens by transporting readers, eyes closed with Haydn's The Creation oratorio playing in the background, to one of those increasingly rare spots where artificial lighting does not pollute the pure darkness. When a choral whisper followed by a fortissimo C-major chord announces, "And there was light," Raymo advises readers to open their eyes to "Stars. Planets. The luminous river of the Milky Way.... [Y]ou will feel that you have been witness to the Big Bang." Each chapter illuminates a different scientific theme and ends with two star maps, one describing "What to See" and the other "What to Imagine" in the month's night sky. The book closes with a revelation. "Science illuminates nature but does not deplete its mystery. Science at its best... is an almost religious activity." By those criteria, and by any other, this is science at its best. Illus. (May)Forecast: This is the astronomy book for literate newcomers to the art of star-gazing. Display and handselling should help it move out of the stores. It's also an Astronomy Book Club main selection.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Raymo (Skeptics and True Believers: The Exhilarating Connection Between Science and Religion, LJ 6/1/98), a physics professor at Stonehill College, fears that we have lost our ancestral connection with the night sky indeed, that we no longer even see it. In this rambling, highly personal work, Raymo touches on some predictable topics eclipses, comets, the Big Bang but also discusses music, mythology, light pollution, nuclear weapons, and more. His meandering notwithstanding, the author's evident love and appreciation of the beauty, mystery, and wonder of the heavens will inspire some readers to step outside for a look at the stars. Novice sky-watchers can make good use of this book's resources: a series of seasonal star maps highlighting objects visible to the naked eye, appendixes about planets and meteor showers, and a (too-brief) list of print and electronic astronomy resources. Recommended for public libraries. (Index not seen.) Nancy R. Curtis, Univ. of Maine Lib, Orono
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; 1st edition (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802713696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802713698
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.8 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,485,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There are 24 star maps (and many pictures); each of them beautifully illustrated, in this small book. Each of them highlights what can be seen with the naked eyes throughout the year in the northern hemisphere. Together with the maps Chet includes commentaries and tips on how to identify planets,stars, and constellations. Unlike few other sky guide books that merely teaches star hopping, Chet tries to stimulate readers imagination; inviting them to journey into the unseen and unperceivable, to marvel at the modern physics and be awed by the ancients wisdom. This book will sustain anyone's interest in astronomy for a long time.
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Format: Hardcover
I am an astronomy buff who happened upon this book at my local library. Professor Raymo's writing style is lyrical, almost poetic, making it highly readable. It is organized around the seasons, with each section (Winter, Sping, Summer & Autumn) beginning with a description of the constellations asociated with that season). But the book is also very informative, containing chapters on such matters as star formation, the moon & lunar cycles, the planets, comets, the death of stars, etc. The final chapter very moving and is particularly beautifully written. This book would be equally appropriate for both someone just beginning to explore the wonders of astronomy and the night sky, and for a more experienced amateur astronomer, although the latter may find a good bit of the information contained in the book to be somewhat basic. Nonetheless, my keen interest in astronomy spans several years and I still found the book to be educational as well as inspiring.
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Format: Hardcover
Raymo's latest book is not a star atlas designed to be carried out-of-doors under a dark night sky. Though it has star maps (arranged by season), it is clearly not _that_ kind of guide to the night sky. Raymo hints at his motivation on page X of the introduction:
"We spend out evenings indoors in front of the television or computer monitor, oblivious of the beauty and terror of the celestial abyss." Raymo's intent is to reintroduce us to that beauty and terror; to renew our (a collective "our;" the human race) intimacy with the night sky.
Organizationally, the 12 chapters of the book are arranged into four broad sections by season. Each section begins with several all-sky charts introducing us to the major constellations of that season. The chapters associated with the four sections delve deeper, covering such topics as the distances to stars, eclipses, comets, meteor showers, etc.
The major attraction of this book is not the science, though the science is accurate and delivered in digestible portions. The major attraction of "Night Sky" is the way Raymo delivers the content: with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, with a deep respect and secular appreciation for the beauty of the heavens. His blend of science with poetry, history, culture, and music is smooth and never forced.
Seasoned Raymo readers will note that he has recycled much of his material from earlier (and arguably better) books, but that should not dissuade. Night Sky contains the best of Raymo's naturalist yearnings for the ineffable attraction of things celestial. As he discusses the "usual suspects" (Hubble Deep Field, the attrition of stars due to light pollution, etc.), he is convincing in his deep sense of awe and humility. He has an enviable ability to turn a phrase and communicate via allegory.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book on a whim while looking for star atlases. First, this book does have brief guides based on the seasons on where to see some astronomical wonders. But that is not where it strenght lies. Chet Raymo paints a poetic portrait of our night sky in this book which will captivate your imagination. You can actually feel your mind reaching out across the universe as he pulls you into the initial creation of the heavens and sends you flying out at light speed. Each chapter delves into a aspect of the night sky which tickles your imagination. You will find yourself thinking for hours after putting this book down and looking forward to the next time you can pick it up.
If you are looking for a guide to the night sky, try "Turn Left at Orion". If you want to explore the heavens and enlighten your own mind, buy this book!!! You will not be disappointed in its lyrical prose and heavenly sketches.
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Format: Hardcover
Intimate? Throughout the book Raymo introduces poets, Gods, Goddesses, non sentient life and scientists from the history of astronomy. Look? Early on in the book the author encourages, almost to the point of insisting, that the reader go outside on a warm evening, lie down, and close her eyes. Night Sky? From the Big Bang through the Earth's crust, through the centers of stars, into your imagination and out to the conceivable ends of time this book takes you far beyond the night sky.
What a beautiful introduction to astronomy and cosmology and the arts and sciences associated with both.
Like 365 Starry Nights, An Intimate Look at the Night Sky leads the reader though a year of observing the stellar vista. On the way the author directs the reader to all manner of items of interest. He suggests that you close your eyes while listening to Haydn's The Creation and open them to experience the burst of the big bang through immediate sensory experience. You can vicariously (or mnemonically) experience extremes of observing through his descriptions -- from a miserable cold, damp night hoping for the clouds to part to lying on a tropical beach under the stars. Mr. Raymo introduces the mythology behind the names of many familiar constellations and includes many heavenly references from classical literature. With all this is mixed gobs of science. There is enough science in this book to support an introductory course in astronomy. Due to the balance of elements the book is a facinating, enjoyable read. The facets create a rich and rewarding reading experience.
Highly recommended for anyone.
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