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Astronomers study the oldest observable stars in the universe in much the same way that archaeologists study ancient artifacts on Earth. Here, Anna Frebel—who is credited with discovering several of the oldest and most primitive stars using the world's largest telescopes—takes readers into the far-flung depths of space and time to provide a gripping firsthand account of the cutting-edge science of stellar archaeology. Weaving the latest findings in astronomy with her own compelling insights as one of the world’s leading researchers in the field, Frebel explains how sections of the night sky are "excavated" in the hunt for these extremely rare relic stars—some of which have been shining for more than 13 billion years—and how this astonishing quest is revealing tantalizing new details about the earliest times in the universe. She vividly describes how the very first stars formed soon after the big bang and then exploded as supernovae, leaving behind chemical fingerprints that were incorporated into the ancient stars we can still observe today. She shows how these fingerprints provide clues to the cosmic origin of the elements, early star and galaxy formation, and the assembly process of the Milky Way. Along the way, Frebel recounts her own stories of discovery, offering an insider’s perspective on this exciting frontier of science. Lively and accessible, this book sheds vital new light on the origins and evolution of the cosmos while providing a unique look into life as an astronomer.
In an illustrated, accessible text, the author explains the life cycle of stars, from dense molecular clouds to the enigmatic nebulae some stars leave behind in their violent ends.
What happens at the end of the life of massive stars? At one time we thought all these stars followed similar evolutionary paths. However, new discoveries have shown that things are not quite that simple. This book focuses on the extreme –the most intense, brilliant and peculiar– of astronomical explosions. It features highly significant observational finds that push the frontiers of astronomy and astrophysics, particularly as before these objects were only predicted in theory. This book is for those who want the latest information and ideas about the most dramatic and unusual explosions detected by current supernova searches. It examines and explains cataclysmic and unusual events in stellar astrophysics and presents them in a non-mathematical but highly detailed way that non-professionals can understand and enjoy.
LATE IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, what had been a fevered pace of discovery in astronomy for many years had slowed. The Hubble Space Telescope continued to produce an astonishing array of images, but the study of the universe was still fractured into domains: measuring the universe’s expansion rate, the evolution of galaxies in the early universe, the life and death of stars, the search for extrasolar planets, the quest to understand the nature of the elusive dark matter. So little was understood, still, about so many of the most fundamental questions, foremost among them: What was the overall structure of the universe? Why had stars formed into galaxies, and galaxies into massive clusters? What was needed, thought visionary astronomer Jim Gunn, recently awarded the National Medal of Science, was a massive survey of the sky, a kind of new map of the universe that would be so rich in detail and cover such a wide swath of space, be so grand and bold, that it would allow astronomers to see the big picture in a whole new way. So was born the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a remarkable undertaking bringing together hundreds of astronomers and launching a new era of supercharged astronomical discovery, an era of “e-science” that has taken astronomy from the lonely mountaintop observatory to the touch of your fingertips. Critically acclaimed science writer Ann Finkbeiner tells the inside story of the Sloan and how it is revolutionizing astronomy. The Sloan stitched together images of deep space taken over the course of five years, providing a remarkably detailed, three-dimensional map of a vast territory of the universe, all digitized and downloadable for easy searching on a personal computer, and available not only to professional astronomers but to the public as well. Bringing together for the first time images of many millions of galaxies—including the massive structure known as the Sloan Great Wall of galaxies, never seen before—the Sloan is allowing astronomers and armchair enthusiasts alike to watch the universe grow up, providing so many discoveries at such a fast pace that, as one astronomer said, it’s like drinking out of a fire hose. They are watching galaxies forming and galaxies merging with other galaxies, seeing streams of stars swirling out from galaxies, and forming a new understanding of how the smooth soup of matter that emerged from the Big Bang evolved into the universe as we know it. Ann Finkbeiner brings the excitement and the extraordinary potential of this new era of astronomy vividly to life and allows all readers to understand how they, too, can become part of the discovery process. A Grand and Bold Thing is vital reading for all.
Within galaxies, stars grow from clouds of gas and dust, shine brilliantly, and die stunning deaths. The Composition of the Universe: The Evolution of Stars and Galaxies traces the lives of stars and also the lives of famous scientists like Edwin Hubble, Albert Einstein, and Henrietta Leavitt. Closely aligned to Next Generation Science Standards, the book demonstrates how technology and scientific ideas evolve over time, just like the universe itself.
“A thrilling synthesis from a brilliant scientist who discovered one of the most important chapters in our history.” —Sean B. Carroll Big History, the field that integrates traditional historical scholarship with scientific insights to study the full sweep of our universe, has so far been the domain of historians. Famed geologist Walter Alvarez—best known for the “Impact Theory” explaining dinosaur extinction—has instead championed a science-first approach to Big History. Here he wields his unique expertise to give us a new appreciation for the incredible occurrences—from the Big Bang to the formation of supercontinents, the dawn of the Bronze Age, and beyond—that have led to our improbable place in the universe.
White dwarfs, each containing about as much mass as our Sun but packed into a volume about the size of Earth, are the endpoints of evolution for most stars. Thousands of these faint objects have now been discovered, though only a century ago only three were known. They are among the most common stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, and they have become important tools in understanding the universe. Yet a century ago only three white dwarfs were known. The existence of these stars completely baffled the scientists of the day, and solving the mysteries of these strange objects required revolutionary advances in science and technology, including the development of quantum physics, the construction and utilization of large telescopes, the invention of the digital computer, and the ability to make astronomical observations from space. This book tells the story of the growth in our understanding of white dwarf stars, set within the context of the relevant scientific and technological advances. Part popular science, part historical narrative, this book is authored by one of the astrophysicists who participated directly in uncovering some of the secrets of white dwarf stars.

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