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Galactic Encounters: Our Majestic and Evolving Star-System, From the Big Bang to Time's End Hardcover – 26 Sep 2014


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“Sheehan (astronomy historian/writer;psychiatrist) and Conselice (astronomer, Univ. of Nottingham, UK) do this in an informative and engaging style by choosing prominent scientists who made significant contributions and then giving biographical information about these individuals. In this way, the authors not only maintain the scientific standard of the writing at a high level but also convey a flavor of how research is undertaken. … Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and general readers.” (D. E. Hogg, Choice, Vol. 52 (8), April, 2015)

“In an accessible and gripping way, the authors tell the story of the history of modern astronomy from its beginnings to the present. This book can be read either casually, as an entertaining introduction to astronomy in its human, historical context, or it can be read in detail to absorb what science has to say about the universe and how this knowledge was achieved. It can also be perused for the aesthetics of its fantastic photographs of the universe. For me, it was an opportunity to renew and expand on my childhood fascination with astronomy. However you read it, you won’t be disappointed. This is a book that you will return to many times.” (John Kounios, Drexel University, Amazon, March 2, 2015)

“Galactic Encounters … is a beautifully written and illustrated compilation of our progressive understanding of the cosmos since Galileo first pointed his telescope at the Milky Way and saw multitudes of stars. … Galactic Encounters is an informative and enjoyable read … .” (Klaus Brasch, The Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 109 (1), February, 2015)

“The book is written starting from the earliest observations and scientists and continues all the way to twenty first century. … 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. … ‘Galactic Encounters’ is very interesting, thorough and well-illustrated.” (Kadri Tinn, AstroMadness.com, December, 2014)

From the Back Cover

Written by William Sheehan, a noted historian of astronomy, and Christopher J. Conselice, a professional astronomer specializing in galaxies in the early universe, this book tells the story of how astronomers have pieced together what is known about the vast and complicated systems of stars and dust known as galaxies.

The first galaxies appeared as violently disturbed exotic objects when the Universe was only a few 100 million years old.  From that tortured beginning, they have evolved though processes of accretion, merging and star formation into the majestic spirals and massive ellipticals that dominate our local part of the Universe. This of course includes the Milky Way, to which the Sun and Solar System belong; it is our galactic home, and the only galaxy we will ever know from the inside.  Sheehan and Conselice show how astronomers’ understanding has grown from the early catalogs of Charles Messier and William Herschel; developed through the pioneering efforts of astronomers like E.E. Barnard, V.M. Slipher, Henrietta Leavitt, Edwin Hubble and W.W. Morgan; and finally is reaching fruition in cutting-edge research with state-of-the-art instruments such as the Hubble Space Telescope that can see back to nearly the beginning of the Universe.  By combining archival research that reveals fascinating details about the personalities, rivalries and insights of the astronomers who created extragalactic astronomy with the latest data gleaned from a host of observations, the authors provide a view of galaxies – and their place in our understanding of the Universe – as they have never been seen before.

 


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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Great book, excellent authors, but where was Springer? 31 Mar. 2015
By Mark Lancaster - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sheehan and Conselice provide a history of galactic astronomy that is a great read, both for its logical sequence from chapter-to-chapter as well as its breadth, all within nearly 400 pages. I am not familiar with author Christopher Conselice, but he and William Sheehan have certainly created a book that belongs in every astronomy enthusiasts library.

I rated the book as 4-stars, not because of the author's work, but due to Springer's surprising lack of proofreading. The book is loaded with grammatical errors, and some passages that will leave the reader scratching his head. For example, the last paragraph on page 258:

"By leapfrogging their way to redshifts of galaxies in clusters at greater and greater distances, Hubble and Humason by 1936 had pushed the 100-inch was reaching the reflector to the limits of its capability and had extended the linear relation of the of the Hubble diagram out to distances thirteen times that of the original diagram of 1929."

Another error, at the end of chapter nine on page 203:

"The discovery of the large radial velocities of the spiral nebulae was as unexpected as Becquerel's discovery of radioactive, and made in the pursuit of an entirely different result." (I assume it should have been "radioactivity", not "radioactive")

A few mistakes are to be expected in any publication, but this book is riddled with them. The authors have done a great job here, but the errors certainly subtract from their efforts.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I really enjoyed reading Galactic Encounters by William Sheehan and Christopher J. Conselice 7 April 2015
By Ernest E. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed reading Galactic Encounters by William Sheehan and Christopher J. Conselice. The early histories of Galileo, Brahe,
Kepler, and Newton were not included; it all began with my favorite astronomer William Herschel. Whenever I get a little discouraged
in astronomy with a few little problems involving poor seeing conditions mostly due to light pollution, I think of Herschel and his sister
Caroline, and what they must have gone through to catalogue all those deep sky objects for my benefit. I still don't know how they did
it, but this book lets me into their life, if only a little bit. The book continues on through modern astronomy with Hubble, Anne Jump Cannon,
Henrietta Leavitt, W.W. Morgan, E.E. Barnard. and George Ellery Hale, just to name a few of the pioneers of modern astronomy. A lot of
theoretical knowledge comes along for the ride, but in a language easy to take in. The last chapter was an interesting little philosophical
discussion of man and the cosmos. All in all, the book is worth a second read. I'm looking forward to it. There is one little caveat; I was
surprised at the number of typos and minor grammatical errors in addition to the front piece being loose in my new book. The publisher
could have done a little better in that regard.

All in all, this book enriched my knowledge of astronomy's contribution to the natural world around us.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A universe of fascinating mysteries explained 4 Nov. 2014
By Joseph Piliero - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful world of easily digested mysteries of the universe for anyone interested in outer space beyond our solar system. Newbie, amateur, and professional alike will revel in the richness of the color images. Subjects such as the discovery of the spiral arms of the Milky Way are easily understood and their history outlined. Many subcategories of astronomy are illustrated in fascinating detail. Design of this oversized book is logically worked around a grid, enhancing its approachability. As an amateur astronomer without a telescope, I reveled in the text and photos, which expanded my grasp of our universe in a big bang of information.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Magnificent!! 3 Mar. 2015
By John Kounios - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A magnificent book, beautifully written and lavishly illustrated, obviously a labor of love for the authors, William Sheehan and Christopher Conselice. In an accessible and gripping way, the authors tell the story of the history of modern astronomy from its beginnings to the present. This book can be read either casually, as an entertaining introduction to astronomy in its human, historical context, or it can be read in detail to absorb what science has to say about the universe and how this knowledge was achieved. It can also be perused for the aesthetics of its fantastic photographs of the universe. For me, it was an opportunity to renew and expand on my childhood fascination with astronomy. However you read it, you won’t be disappointed. This is a book that you will return to many times.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
illuminating quotations by great thinkers such as Shakespeare 6 Nov. 2014
By steven Thurber - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I was attracted to this book because of an enthusiastic interest in the subject matter. I was wary however that this would be a book replete with technical jargon and abstruse mathematical and theoretical formulations that would challenge a layperson's ability to comprehend. I was correct in that the material was indeed challenging. But I found that certain esoteric constructs from astrophysics I had either avoided or heretofore had eluded my understanding were explained lucidly by the authors. The explanations were enriched by similes, analogies (e.g., galaxy and the human brain), illuminating quotations by great thinkers such as Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Winston Churchill, and importantly, wonderful photographs of celestial phenomena. Moreover, there was a rich historical foundation throughout the text related to the evolution of instrumentation (telescopes, photography), astronomical measurement, and the genesis of ideas. Of particular note are the vivid biographical vignettes, some in my estimation worthy of adaptation into screenplays. Memorable to me were the characterizations of John Herschel who reluctantly replaced his renowned father as the family investigator of nebulae, William Wilson Morgan who turned to the stars as a refuge from an abusive father, and George Ellery Hale, the gifted, high energy, driven scientist-entrepreneur, who attained much but eventually wilted under conditions of excessive work and self-imposed achievement pressures.

The book could stand alone as a text that illustrates the scientific method and the sometimes slow but inexorable forward progress of science. But foremost, the attentive reader will gain an enhanced understanding of our universe specific to the origin, evolution and destiny of galaxies. And, they will appreciate the theme celebrating the human need to satisfy epistemic curiosity and the joy of discovery as exemplified by the contributions of great men and women of historical significance, the "amateur astronomy" experiences of the first author, and the current scientists exploring the mysteries of dark matter.

Steven Thurber
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