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Showing 1-10 of 10 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 15 reviews
on September 15, 2016
I am not an astrophysicist, but when I read about astrophysics, I always start with a book by James B. Kaler. OK, disclaimer, I was one of his first students at University of Illinois in the 1960's and found him to be an outstanding educator, a fact borne out by the numerous popular and technical articles and books he has written over the past 50 years as well as his frequently updated website on The Stars. The Stars and Their Spectra is really a primer for either beginning or advanced undergraduate astronomy, astrophysics or electrical engineering students desiring to either brush up or be introduced into the fascinating technique of astrospectroscopy from which we learn more about the stars and galaxies than simply knowing their location and distances. He describes in easily understood language the necessary structure of the atoms, electron orbitals, chemistry and even some elementary quantum mechanics in order to lay the framework for understanding the different spectral classes of stars that describe their horizontal position on the HR diagram, and thereby give us an insight into their possible masses, radial velocity, surface temperature and evolution. Perhaps one of his students will someday make an app to simply click on a star and follow its evolutionary path given what is known of its spectral class when the fusion of hydrogen into helium is finished in the core. That is when the real fireworks begins, and sets the stage for whether a novae, ring nebulae, supernovae and for some, black holes. Published in 1989, the book is now dated, but still highly readable and can easily serve as a starting point for further exploration into the field of astrospectroscopy.
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on November 2, 2013
Excellent, well done. Good explanation for the spectral analysis of stars.
I recommend this book for those like me who begin in this domain.
You need some knowledge in physics but not in mathematics.
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on July 7, 2003
"Stars and their Spectra" is overall a significantly better read than Kaler's earlier work "Stars", which touched on many topics but didn't dive into any of them satisfyingly enough. This book delivers a thorough yet introductory coverage of the science of stellar spectroscopy. As an added bonus, it's very well-written and is great fun to read cover to cover. Kaler clearly harbors great enthusiasm for this subject, particularly when he discusses extreme stars like supergiants and white dwarfs.
Kaler spends the first eighty pages or so covering the basics of how stars work, spectral theory, and history of the modern scheme of spectral classification (OBAFGKM, easily remembered by the popular mnemonic Oh Be A Fine Girl Kiss Me). The meat of the book comes next: a chapter devoted to each letter of the sequence, starting from the cool M stars and working up to the ultra-hot O stars. Here Kaler goes into significant detail on the defining characteristics of each class and how those characteristics manifest themselves physically. We learn how dwarfs, giants, and supergiants may share a spectral class but are fundamentally different (the giants and supergiants almost always aged into that spectral class from a different one). A wealth of other information on each class is presented. We finish up with stars that don't really appear on the regular H-R diagram, such as white dwarfs and neutron stars. Kaler also gives a nice overview at the end of how stars journey along the H-R diagram, changing spectral classes as they age and their internal fusion engines deplete their fuel.
I see stars of a myriad of different colors through my telescope. A few are stunning and a great many come in attractive pairs or multiples. Yet visually they're all points of light with little meaning. It was fascinating to see how much can be learned from analyzing the detailed characteristics of a star's light by dispersing it in a spectrograph. Due to the advancements in this science and the aggregation of data points on the modern H-R diagram, it is often possible to guage a star's size, age, chemical composition, and distance solely from the qualities of its light.
I sell most books after I read them but this one's a keeper and has a permanent spot on the shelf!
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on August 12, 2014
This turned out to be an older edition of the book which has since been revised. However, the information in it is still good, as long as you realize that several new spectral classes have been added since this version.
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on November 29, 2008
This book is an excellent qualitative introduction to spectroscopy and the spectral sequence. It offers more detail than an introductory level astronomy course, however it only presents experimental spectroscopic results, and little mathematics. Instead it relies on plausibilty arguments and physical intuition. Working through the spectral sequence, it describes the various phenomenoma observed at each location on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. I often found it helpful to keep a printed out H-R diagram and a periodic table on hand while I read this book. While it is sufficient for some advanced amateur astronomers, it might not be quite satisfying to a mathematically sophisticated reader with a background in physics who wouldn't feel uncomfortable with more mathematical detail. That being said, it might be worth reading just to get a feel for what sorts of phenomena are out there before reading a more sophisticated book on similar astrophysical topics.
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on March 27, 2014
The hardcover version corrects the truly awful paperback graphics quality. Now Dr. Kaler's excellent text is accompanied by very legible graphs and spectra.
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on June 23, 2015
Maybe I should get Charley a job, 'cause he may be taking too much time looking at the stars! Thanks, MC
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on June 3, 2012
I've been reading Kaler's articles about stellar spectral types in Sky and Telescope magazine for years. Like they say, he taught me everything I know. I'm happy with the book and the ordering and review process. Plus I got a bargain over other sites.
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on September 26, 2007
I am in the process of building a spectroscope to be used in our astronomy club's 14 inch Celestron. This book has been a great source of technical information needed to both understand how they work. Subsequently it will be a useful reference should we be able to take spectrophotos and compare them to spectra in the book. Highly recommended.
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on October 15, 2009
Looking through the reviews for this book, I decided to purchase it a few month ago. After reading it (or more correctly trying to read it, more than once) it has been a daunting task. It's incoherent, bad printing, the worst images quality ever. Look at the images of Scorpius to study the image of Antares, spectral sequences; I'm unable to see anything useful; just a big fuzz. Considering that "Gutenberg printing press" was invented a few hundred years ago, this book is awful. The style is a shocking horror story; information is jumbled up and zigzags around the point. References to images and pictures that are scattered around the book. I'm an Engineer so reading physics and engineering books is something that I've been doing for many years. The Scientific content of this book may be great, but the presentation is horrendous.

I think a rewrite and reprint of this book is warranted. Again, with so many good comments praising the book, it may be a matter of personal view.
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