Posted on Thursday, August 24, 2017
By Kadri

Women Spacefarers by Umberto Cavallaro

If you've ever been interested in  what kind of background women astronauts have, then this is the book to read. Cavallaro present short biographies of sixty women who have flown in space.

This book feels more like a reference book and it functions well as one - if you're interested in on what kind of missions any of the women astronauts flew, what were their tasks on those missions, what is their education, family background, when did they get interested in spaceflight etc, then you can find it in this book together with a bibliography should you be more interested in reading more about any of the sixty astronauts.

To me, the most interesting part was their work on the ground though - what were they assigned to do- starting from looking into how spacesuits can and should be adjusted for women and ending with engineering.

The book also serves as a good introduction to the history of women spacefarers - what were the reasons for keeping women out of space missions in the first place and what changed in the attitudes of different space programs and culture.

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Posted on Wednesday, August 09, 2017
By Kadri
Making Beautiful Deep-Sky Images: Astrophotography with Affordable Equipment and Software by Greg Parker

Deep-sky imaging is one of the most technical fields in astrophotography that requires a lot of devotion when it comes to acquiring equipment and also resilience in the face of non-ideal conditions and outcomes from imaging. This book doubles as a technical guide to deep sky astrophotography for intermediate or advanced astrophotography enthusiasts but also as an inspirational guide to show what can be achieved with enough time and effort.

Already at the beginning of the book it's mentioned that this book is not for beginners, and as such it does not delve into the basics of what kind of equipment can be used and what astronomical objects can be imaged and what they are. Rather, the author starts with introducing his own imaging systems, how he chose them, how they've changed over time, and what he uses them for.

Although the subtitle of the book has the word "affordable" in it, it's relative. When it comes to astrophotography, there are a lot more affordable ways of starting out in it - imaging the Milky Way or the Moon etc doesn't require too much specialist equipment. When it comes to imaging nebulae, galaxies and star cluster etc however one has to keep in mind that there what is seen as entry-level equipment can still set you back a lot more than any other astrophotography equipment.

The book isn't aimed at complete novices in astrophotography, but it's still useful if you're only a novice in photographing deep sky objects - the book provides step by step information on setting up your imaging system, what benefits one or other telescope type might have for this specific purpose, what kind of computing power you should have access to and why it might be a good idea to consider setting up a permanent home observatory instead of driving to a dark-sky sight with your telescope, or even just setting it up each night.

In addition to tips for choosing which object to photograph, when and with what, there's also a lot of information about image processing, something that is vital for deep sky images.  And as inspiration, you can find numerous photos of deep sky objects by the author of the book.

If you're thinking of getting into deep sky astrophotography, the beginning of the book might slightly scare you away just with the expenses involved in purchasing and setting up an imaging system, however there are other options - renting telescope time on a telescope farm and imaging remotely for example. That would be a great way to test out some imaging systems, try out some methods and suggested imaging targets in an even more affordable way. And "Making Beautiful Deep-Sky Images" might just provide you with the inspiration to do so together with the skills you'd need to start taking amazing photos of some of the most beautiful astronomical objects.


Posted on Wednesday, August 02, 2017
By Kadri
Archaeoastronomy : Introduction to the Science of Stars and Stones by Giulio Magli

Looking at the sky and using the annual and even daily apparent motions of astronomical objects in the sky for practical purposes goes back thousands of years. Although there are still people, who look for guidance for everyday life in the goings-on in space, we mostly now see astronomy in connection to space-telescopes, giant ground-based telescopes and awe-inspiring images of deep space objects, and not so much in what can be seen and learned with the naked eye over a large timespan from one location.

This book deals with archaeoastronomy - an area of research that looks at ancient structures that were aligned in a specific way or used in connection to astronomy for timekeeping or religious festivals etc. The most famous examples of some such structures include Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids and Chichen Itza.

This book provides information on what kind of celestial motions can be followed with the naked eye and what kind of significance they might have had for the people who built these magnificent structures. In addition to the exposition we also get a glimpse of how archaeoastronomy is done and the reader is also provided with some tools and resources together with some exercises using widely available free software or internet resources that enable one to gain a better understanding of the nature of both archaeoastronomy and the historic sites mentioned in the book.

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Posted on Saturday, July 29, 2017
By Kadri
Inner Solar System

Prospective Energy and Material Resources, edited by Viorel Badescu, Kris Zacny

In Inner Solar System we take a look at Mercury and Venus, what we know about them and how that information was gathered and also at what technologies have been employed for missions there, what could be used in the future and what might the future reasons be for exploring both Venus and Mercury.

The book starts of with the real basics - the physical composition and structure of terrestrial planets and how we know about that. Also the planet formation is discussed in a way that  presents the terrestrial planets as forming early on similarly to giant gas planets with dense metal cores that eventually would lose the extensive atmosphere because of the strong solar wind from the early Sun.

The space missions that have contributed to our knowledge about these planets such as the early Venera, Vega and Pioneer Venus missions, but also later ones such as MESSENGER and Venus Express and others are introduced together with what was learned from those missions. The missions are presented in such a way that you get an idea what kind of modifications were made in next spacecraft because of what was learned.

The book also presents current ideas under development for future spacecraft and what kind of challenges have to be overcome for making them viable for a space mission to Mercury or Venus. You can also find calculations on how long it would take to reach either of the planets with different thrust systems and how much fuel they would require, but also info on power systems.

This book is a fascinating collection of research that has been done to enable future missions to test and sample the surface of Mercury and Venus in a way that hasn't been possible before. Some of the interesting developments that are introduced in the book include drilling at high temperatures and pressures, and comparisons between different sampler systems.

A large part of the book is dedicated to looking at what kind of resources and materials we might find useful on Mercury or Venus that would make venturing there an economical and business enterprise rather than just a scientific undertaking.

The book concludes with chapters on the possibility of terraforming Mercury and Venus and discussion on colonization of those two planets.

This book makes you see Mercury and Venus from a different, slightly utopian, angle, from which it isn't totally crazy to imagine manned missions there.


Posted on Saturday, July 29, 2017
By Kadri

The Twin Sister Planets Venus and Earth: Why are they so different?  by Robert J. Malcuit.

In this book the author looks at what makes the planets Venus and Earth different at present age, and also what might have been the reasons behind those differences despite some similarities between them.

One of the main differences is seen as the Earth having a moon and Venus not having any natural satellites. Given that the presence of the Moon has had a stabilizing effect on the Earth's axial tilt and a slowing effect on the rotation rate, a lot of attention in this book goes to looking at differences that might be due to one planet having a sizable moon and the other not.

For that reason the formation theories of the Moon are presented starting with the fission model that was popular until 1930s, continuing with the co-formation theory and various capture theories and ofcourse the now widely supported Giant Impact model.

A lot of attention in this book has gone to the capture theories and showing how various initial conditions would lead to a different outcome which might have become the differences between the Earth-Moon system and the moonless Venus.

As the capture model plays a significant role in the structure of the book, a lot of space is dedicated to the interpretation of observational data from that point of view.

A part of the book is written in a question-answer style, which does certainly give the impression of a well-organized book, but it breaks up the reading-experience to small chunks.

It is interesting that the book also features the idea of soft-body impacts as the explanation for circular lunar maria and for mass concentrations under its surface, something that could have only taken place for a very short time in lunar history.

Getting back to the main topic of the book though - why are Venus and Earth so different? After looking at Earth-Moon system the author continues with a hypothetical model where Venus captures a satellite (named Adonis) of about half lunar mass into a retrograde orbit. As Adonis orbits Venus and it orbit evolves, it circles in closer and the crust of Venus would be reworked because of tidal forces. As Adonis reaches the Roche limit, it would break up and eventually the pieces would collide with the planet.

The book focuses on the effect that a captured satellite of about lunar mass would have on an Earth-mass planet and how the effects would be manifested in the planets crustal motion, atmospheric composition etc.


Posted on Tuesday, June 13, 2017
By Kadri
Towards Understanding the Climate of Venus

Venus is an interesting planet in it's similarities and differences from our own planet. Similar in size and location, but very different in it's atmosphere's composition, pressure, climate and many other physical features.

This book looks at how models that have been used for modelling Earth's climate can be used in the case of Venus.

The book starts out with an overview of the history of Venus observations, and what we knew from ground-based telescopic observations and what information was added later by satellites and radar-systems etc. It is interesting to note how early ideas about Venus saw it as a somewhat warmer habitable planet with rain forests, and how those ideas were in a way crushed by the Venusian atmosphere as scientists found out more about it.

After getting to know Venus as a planet we then dive into it's atmosphere and it's characteristics and the modelling efforts looking at it in great detail in the case of the radiation field of Venus, air circulation and how the atmosphere interacts with the surface.

This book also provides some information on the current ideas about what kind of space missions to Venus we might see in the near future.

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Posted on Tuesday, June 13, 2017
By Kadri
Engineering Women: Re-visioning Women's Scientific Achievements and Impacts by Jill S. Tietjen

This book presents a short overview of women's access to engineering education in the US and short biographies of some high-achieving women in a variety of engineering areas.

This book's structure is great - first it introduces the challenges that women faced at a specific time period and then brings in the bios of women who despite everything managed to become engineers and thrive at their work.

The historical view is fascinating, especially as it shows, how for women's technical education wars were a good thing and they facilitated social change since women had to step in to fill the gaps that were left by men going to war. What distinguishes this book about women in engineering though, is that although it tells of the past when women were rarely accepted to study engineering or work as an engineer, it isn't full of stories of discrimination and sexism. Yes, it is a sad part of the history, but the large number of fascinating biographical sketches of the women in engineering brings to mind the attitude that if they could swim against the current in those conditions, then we're living at a great time for female engineers.

The women whose short biographies are presented in the book include electrical, mechanical, chemical and biological engineers and even female astronauts with engineering backgrounds.

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