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5.0 out of 5 stars A Most Readable Textbook, 26 Mar. 2013
D. Hawkes - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stars and their Spectra: An Introduction to the Spectral Sequence (Hardcover)
As an amateur astrophotogragher looking for additional pursuits related to astronomy I have been toying with the idea of a buying a diffraction grating to attempt some very basic spectroscopy of the stars. Looking into this subject I came across this book by Kaler which appears to be well received and offered at a good price for a substantive hard back.

Once started I could not put this book down and read it word for word over a couple of weeks. It is beautifully descriptive, written in a refreshingly warm style in contrast to so many text books that though detailed mathematically are very cold and feel almost unattached to their subject matter.

After a general introduction Kaler offers a description of how observational astronomy can be used to derive the physical properties of stars and then gives a superb account of the atomic processes that give rise to continuous, emission and absorption spectra and why and when these spectra can appear in combination.

After a description of prismatic and diffraction based hardware the book starts in earnest to explain the spectral sequence, initially giving an extensive account of the history and different systems that have emerged over time and how these have been distilled down to today's system OBAFGKMLT.

The HR diagram and the MK system of luminosity is described in detail and then the book starts in earnest by allocating an individual chapter to each star type starting at M and making its way through 300 odd pages to type O. Each chapter is absolutely engrossing due the authors passionate style of writing.

Beyond type O the author continues in the same vein to describe planetary nebulas, protoplanery systems, white dwarfs, neutron stars and many other exotic types. Nova and supernova are described in detail and the book concludes with 40 pages or so dedicated to the subject of the live cycle of different mass stars which beautifully draws on all the details of the previous chapters to give the best description of the life of a star I have read.

This book has essentially no equations but is clearly written by someone who is profoundly knowledgeable and besotted by the stars.

In summary a wonderfully detailed yet ever so readable book that I highly recommend.
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Stars and their Spectra: An Introduction to the Spectral Sequence
Stars and their Spectra: An Introduction to the Spectral Sequence by James B. Kaler (Hardcover - 28 July 2011)
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