Book of the Month November 2019

Exoplanets: Diamond Worlds, Super Earths, Pulsar Planets, and the New Search for Life beyond Our Solar System by Michael Summers and James Trefil 

The past few years have seen an incredible explosion in our knowledge of the universe. Since its 2009 launch, the Kepler satellite has discovered more than two thousand exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. More exoplanets are being discovered all the time, and even more remarkable than the sheer number of exoplanets is their variety. In Exoplanets, astronomer Michael Summers and physicist James Trefil explore these remarkable recent discoveries- planets revolving around pulsars, planets made of diamond, planets that are mostly water, and numerous rogue planets wandering through the emptiness of space. This captivating book reveals the latest discoveries and argues that the incredible richness and complexity we are finding necessitates a change in our questions and mental paradigms. In short, we have to change how we think about the universe and our place in it, because it is stranger and more interesting than we could have imagined.
This book will be available at the conclusion of the November 18th RASC meeting.  The Lamplighter Library is just off the main entrance to the Zeidler Dome and is open before and after our meetings.

Berta Beltran

Book of the Month October 2019

They Dance in the Sky: Native American Star Myths by Jean Guard Monroe, Ray A Williamson, Edgar Stewart (Illustrator)

From the Zuni of New Mexico, the Cherokee of the southeastern US, to the Iroquois Confederacy of the northeast, American native peoples saw in the night sky constellations markedly different than those mapped out by the Greeks and Arabs.  The stories told of these imaginative groupings are the basis of this 1987 book.  Individual chapters tell of the myths of first nations from a particular part of the North American continent.  At the conclusion of each chapter is a list of the tribe’s prominent stars and constellations and their western equivalents.  They Dance in the Sky takes us back to a time long ago when evenings were spent around a campfire with families marveling at these stories under black skies yet to be tainted with light pollution.
They Dance in the Sky will be available at the conclusion of the October 21st RASC meeting.  The Lamplighter Library is just off the main entrance to the Zeidler Dome and is open before and after our meetings.

Mark Zalcik

Book of the Month September 2019

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

by Mike Brown


As a kid Mike Brown had a fascination with planets.  While at university in California, he went on a mission to discover new objects in the Kuiper Belt at the edge of the solar system.  At the outset the work was painstaking, with no success.   But the discoveries eventually came for Brown and his research team – the first was Quaoar, then came Sedna.  By 2005 the pace was fast and furious.  Learn about the stories behind the finding of “Santa” and “Easterbunny”.  And then there was Xena, the far-flung object that at the International Astronomical Union conference in Prague in August 2006 was poised to be called a full-fledged planet, with Brown as the imminently famous discoverer.  Yet he had always expressed trepidation with the planet designation.  There were now too many Pluto-like objects.  
As the resolution to include Xena and similar objects as planets was about to be passed, a revolt ensued among the Prague delegates.  Squarely in their sights was Pluto itself.  The fateful day was August 26th, the day when a group of scientists in a show of yellow cards changed the way we look at the solar system.  Brown tells the story lightheartedly, keeping the reader apprised with the birth and raising of his first child, Lilah, while the whole story was unfolding.
How I Killed Pluto will be available at the Lamplighter Library at the September RASC meeting!

Mark Zalcik

Book of the Month June 2019

Space Clouds – A Short Guide to Observing Noctilucent Clouds, and the Science Behind Them 

John Rowlands


How appropriate it is to highlight in the month of June a book about noctilucent clouds (NLC), that striking twilight phenomenon visible at our latitudes starting in June.  John Rowlands is an amateur astronomer on the northern coast of Wales.  Although about half a degree of latitude farther south than Edmonton, Rowland’s observing site is idyllic, with an expansive view north over the North Sea.  He is one of the most active European NLC observers, and in 2014 he published the e-book Space Clouds.  It can be found on Smashwords at:
In simple language, Rowlands explains the science behind the formation of NLC.  He goes on to instruct how to look for NLC and record details during a display.  A separate section describes how to photograph NLC.  Of interest is a section on an interesting aspect of NLC history: the possibility that the famous Angel of Mons seen by WWI British soldiers in 1914 could have been a bright display of NLC.
At a cheap price of $8.44US on Smashwords, Space Clouds is a great guide to help you get started on NLC observing!

Mark Zalcik

Book of the Month May 2019

Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery 

Scott Kelly


From early 2015 to early 2016, astronaut Scott Kelly broke the record for the longest habitation in space, spending over a year on the International Space Station.  In Endurance Kelly gives a candid, riveting account of the everyday challenges astronauts and cosmonauts face while confined to a space station orbiting the Earth.  The reader learns about the rigorous routine that must be strictly followed, the quirks of personalities of fellow station dwellers, and the challenges of maintaining equipment.  One such complex machine, the Seedra, scrubs the space station air of carbon dioxide, which even in small concentrations has averse effects on astronauts’ physical state.  The reader feels Kelly’s sense of urgency while completing the painstaking maintenance procedures.

The things we take for granted while firmly planted on terra firma are missed dearly in Earth orbit.  Part of Kelly’s list: “I miss the sound of children playing, which always sounds the same no matter the language.  I miss the sound of people talking and laughing in another room.  I miss rooms.  I miss doors and door frames and the creak of wood floorboards when people walk around in old buildings”.

Interspersed throughout the book are accounts of his pre-astronaut life and personal struggles.  Kelly, who grew up in New Jersey with his twin brother Mark (who also became an astronaut), was an average student with no clear aims in life until he read Tom Wolfes’s The Right Stuff.  His life was forever changed.

Endurance will be available at the Lamplighter Library during the May RASC meeting.  Thanks to Robert Gariepy for suggesting the acquisition of this book! 


Mark Zalcik

Book of the Month April 2019

An Astronomer’s Tale: A Bricklayer’s Guide to the Galaxy

Gary Fildes

Gary Fildes left school at sixteen, got a trade like most of his mates and was soon married with four kids. His life seemed set. But he had a secret. Something he only practised late at night with a few like-minded friends. Then one day, middle age approaching alarmingly, he acted on his lifelong passion. He finally came out. As an astronomer.

Today, Gary is the founder and lead astronomer of Kielder Observatory, one of the top ten stargazing sites in the world, which he also helped to build. Situated in the beautiful forests of Kielder, Northumberland, within Europe’s largest protected dark sky park, it offers some of the UK’s most spectacular views of stars, planets and galaxies.

An Astronomer’s Tale is Gary’s inspirational story: part memoir, part nature writing, part seasonal guide to the night sky. It is a book brimming with passion; and at a time when the world is captivated by space, it will leave you ready to get out there and explore the wonders of the skies for yourself.
An Astronomers Tale will be available at the Lamplighter Library at the conclusion of the RASC meeting.

Berta Beltran

Book of the Month March 2019

Apollo’s Fire: A Day on Earth in Nature and Imagination

Michael Sims

Step outside during a typical 24-hour period on Earth and you experience so many aspects of the world above and around you.  Author Michael Sims reminds us that there is so much more to “an ordinary day”, and then goes ahead and points out a plethora of tidbits that grace our earthly packet of time.  Sims starts with the intricacies of morning twilight, and here and there muses on the role of the Sun that governs so much of the goings-on of the day.  The diversity of topics include:
  • why we actually start a new day in the middle of the night
  • a discussion of various animals that become active at twilight, notably bats and the Loch Ness monster
  • the detailed studies of Charles Darwin on how plants respond to the Sun
  • the role of the Moon in art and literature across many cultures
  • the enthusiasm of Galileo at the potential of the newly-invented telescope 
Needless to say, after reading this book you may never look upon an Earth day in nearly the same way!  Apollo’s Fire will be available at the Lamplighter Library at the conclusion of the RASC meeting.

Mark Zalcik

Book of the Month February 2019

50 Things to See with a Telescope Kids
John A. Read

We at the Lamplighter Library have a number of introductory astronomy books for kids, and this one, published in 2017, is our newest one!  The book begins with an introductory section on telescopes, astronomy during the four seasons, and hints for observing.  Then Read introduces us to the 50 Things, one page per highlight.  There is a healthy mix of prominent constellations and deep sky objects, the constellation pages themselves broken down into deep sky objects lurking within.  Some lesser-known highlights are included, such as the Dragonfly Cluster and Kemble’s Cascade, discovered by Lucian Kemble after whom our library is named.  The planets, plus comets, round out the celestial treats.  50 Things to See has fun illustrations, including cute symbols for the seasons, and a helpful scale showing challenge of viewing.  The book will be available at the February RASC meeting!

While a member of the Mount Diablo Astronomical Society in California, John Read taught thousands of students how to use telescopes and explore the night sky. In 2016, John left corporate America, and is now a full time astrophysics student in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and an active member of the RASC.

The author himself makes a very nice introduction to the book in the following video:

Mark Zalcik