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
Librarian

Book of the Month June 2019

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

by
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
Librarian

Book of the Month May 2019

Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery 

by
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
Librarian

Book of the Month April 2019

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

by
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
Librarian

Book of the Month March 2019

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

by
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
Librarian

Book of the Month February 2019

50 Things to See with a Telescope Kids
by
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
Librarian

December 2018

The Glass Universe
by
Dava Sobel

Early in the 20th century an ambitious project commenced at the Harvard College Observatory – the study of thousands of glass photographic plates containing telescopic image of the stars, each plate holding secrets just waiting to be discovered. An industrious group of individuals took up the challenge – and they were all women. Dava Sobel, author of Galileo’s Daughter, a book we also have at the Lamplighter Library, describes the valuable contributions to astronomy made by this tenacious team, during a time when women were not yet allowed to vote. There is a Canadian connection here: one of the biographies is of Helen Sawyer. In the 1920s, she became a renowned expert on globular star clusters. Later, she and her husband Frank Hogg moved to Canada to become two of this country’s foremost astronomers. The Glass Universe will be available at the RASC meeting this month!

Mark Zalcik
Librarian

November 2018

Binocular Highlights
by
Gary Seronik

A look through binoculars at the night sky can reveal so much more detail than looking with the naked eye, as Gary Seronik points out in his book Binocular Highlights, published by Sky Publishing. Seronik zeroes in on 99 objects, including galaxies, star clusters, and double and variable stars. Handy sky maps help the reader to locate the objects. And a darkened circle on each object map tells you what you will see with standard 10×50 binoculars. So pack your binnies in your travels and pick up this book at the Lamplighter Library!

Mark Zalcik
Librarian