Book 218: Astronomy for Amateurs by Camille Flammarion

24508458Finished reading on July 5th, 2016
Rating: 9/10

This book was first translated into English and published in about 1904, whilst it was originally published in French with a title that would translate to Astronomy for Women.

I started reading this book on a particularly hot and sunny day while showing the Sun to passers-by through a H-alpha telescope. I just really wanted something to do while there wasn’t anyone around, and I couldn’t really just stand in the scorching Sun and observe it for hours.

Astronomy for Amateurs talks about pretty much everything that you’d need to know when first dipping your toes into stargazing – what are constellations, how to find a specific one, how to find the planets, how do they look like, when to expect a meteor shower, what comets are, etc.

All of it is written (and translated) with a beautiful style that at first did seem a bit patronizing and strangely pointed – Flammarion starts out with a long tirade about female astronomers and their exploits and with telling how the young mothers should guide their children’s interest towards astronomy and that there’s nothing difficult in it. – That was all quite baffling until I got to the note that said that the original work was titled Astronomy for Women.

Well it was the beginning of 20th century, so it’s quite an achievement in itself that there was a book aimed towards women.

As for the actual information that you can get from the book – there are obviously some things that are outdated, but it’s not the majority of the work, but rather just bits and pieces – the basics (distances to planets and their sized for example) are mostly correct, although there’s the occasional bit where he writes that the largest object between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter is just about 100km in circumference, whilst Ceres in reality is about ten times that.

I liked the experience of reading it, even though some things were just plain funny – like Flammarion’s description of Lunar craters as volcanic craters (there are some volcanic features on the Moon, but most of the craters are impact craters from meteorite collisions), and how the Sun gets its energy.

If you’re interested in the level of knowledge and the style of a popular science guide book of ca 1900, it’s a good choice for reading. But if you’re just wanting to know more about astronomy – choose something a bit more current.

You can finf Astronomy for Amateurs on Project Gutenberg.

Book 80: Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan

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Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan

Finished reading on October 24th, 2013

Rating 10/10

I’m not quite sure whether or not it is a good idea to give a 10 point rating to such a popular astronomy and space exploration classic as Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot”, but giving any other rating would mean there’s room for improvement.

This book is the first astronomy book I’ve read by Sagan, as I’ve tried to rather read newly or recently released books to keep up with the new stuff, but “Pale Blue Dot” seemed to be calling my name on the bookstore shelf just a little bit too loudly to be ignored.

It was originally published in 1994, but in most chapters you wouldn’t even notice it, although just the thought that it’ll be twenty years from when it was first published is a little scary.

“Pale Blue Dot” is about how humans have discovered the planets and stars and the whole universe and realized that it’s a huge place we live in. It’s also about how scientists have discovered how hot is the surface of Mars and that the largest volcano in the Solar system is on Mars. The content here is rather varied and really exciting and interesting throughout going from history of astronomical discoveries to terraforming other bodies of the Solar system and searching for extraterrestrial life and dodging near-Earth asteroids.

A fine read indeed!