Posted on Wednesday, December 31, 2014
By Kadri
Galactic Encounters: Our Majestic and Evolving Star-System From the Big Bang to Time’s End
by William Sheehan and Christopher J. Conselice

With a score of books published on the history of cosmology and research on galaxies, another one in the same general lines seems unnecessary. However with the thoroughness and interesting writing “Galactic Encounters” is sure to earn a place in your bookshelf whether you’re interested in history of science or in cosmology.

Galactic Encounters does what few similar books do – it introduces the important observers and theoreticians throughout the past few hundred years of astronomical research together with the contemporary ideas about nebulae at the ime..

Similarly to others, the book covers William Herschel’s and Edwin Hubble’s work, but not only – instead of only focusing on their research about nebulae, the authors give an idea of the astronomers lives and characters, and it does that in the case of tens of astronomers, several of whom would only briefly be mentioned in other popular accounts of the history of cosmology.

As an example one can read about Percival Lowell and his obsession with the rotation period of Venus or how and who discovered the spiral arms of our galaxy or how cosmologists came up with such ideas as dark matter and dark energy.

The book is written starting from the earliest observations and scientists and continues all the way to twenty first century. If you’ve taken a basic astronomy course at college or university level, the cosmology part will be familiar to you however one of the great benefits of reading this book is that you get an idea of how the discoveries were made – something that usually isn’t included in basic astronomy classes, but would be in specific courses on cosmology.

The book is also suitable for general readers with maybe less background in physics or astronomy, as you don’t need any mathematics to fly through the book and observations described within.

Another fascinating thing about the book is, that a chapter might start with something where you might not see a straight connection to all that came before and might wonder why there are such detours to other topics in astronomy, but they all lead back to the general story.

In short: “Galactic Encounters” is very interesting, thorough and well-illustrated.

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