Astronomy : A Beginner's Guide to the Universe

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  • Edition: 4th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1/1/2004
  • Publisher: PRENTICE HALL
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A brief, introductory astronomy book designed for readers with little or no scientific background, "A Beginner's Guide" uses an exceptionally clear writing style. The authors present a broad view of astronomy without complex mathematics, yet the book discusses important concepts without simplification. The book's organization follows the popular and effective “ Earth-Out” progression, starting with our planet and then moving through the solar system. A study of the Sun as a model star follows, then the book covers the Milky Way Galaxy, cosmology, and the universe as a whole. Because of its easy-to-read yet comprehensive coverage of astronomy, this book can serve as excellent reference material for those readers interested in learning about our universe.

Table of Contents

Exploring the Heavens: Introduction
The Copernican Revolution: The Birth of Modern Science
Light and Matter: The Inner Workings of the Cosmos
Telescopes: The Tools of Astronomy
Our Planetary System
The Solar System: Interplanetary Matter and the Birth of the Planets
Earth and Its Moon: Our Cosmic Backyard
The Terrestrial Planets: A Study in Contrasts
The Jovian Planets: Giants of the Solar System
Moons, Rings, and Pluto: Small Worlds Among Giants
The Stars
The Sun: Our Parent Star
Measuring the Stars: Giants, Dwarfs, and the Main Sequence
The Interstellar Medium: Star Formation in the Milky Way
Stellar Evolution: The Lives and Deaths of Stars
Neutron Stars and Black Holes: Strange States of Matter
Galaxies and the Universe
The Milky Way Galaxy: A Grand Design
Normal and Active Galaxies: Building Blocks of the Universe
Hubblersquo;s Law and Dark Matter: The Large-Scale Structure of the Cosmos
Cosmology: The Big Bang and the Fate of the Universe
Life in the Universe: Are We Alone?
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.


Astronomy continues to enjoy a golden age of exploration and discovery. Fueled by new technologies and novel theoretical insights, the study of the cosmos has never been more exciting. We are pleased to have the opportunity to present in this book a representative sample of the known facts, evolving ideas, and frontier discoveries in astronomy today. Astronomy: A Beginner's Guide to the Universehas been written for students who have taken no previous college science courses and who will likely not major in physics or astronomy. It is intended primarily for use in a one-semester, non-technical astronomy course. We present a broad view of astronomy, straightforwardly descriptive and without complex mathematics. The absence of sophisticated mathematics, however, in no way prevents discussion of important concepts. Rather, we rely on qualitative reasoning as well as analogies with objects and phenomena familiar to the student to explain the complexities of the subject without oversimplification. We have tried to communicate the excitement that we feel about astronomy and to awaken students to the marvelous universe around us. We are very gratified that the first three editions of this text have been so well received by many in the astronomy education community. In using those earlier texts, many of you--teachers and students alike--have given us helpful feedback and constructive criticisms. From these, we have learned to communicate better both the fundamentals and the excitement of astronomy. Many improvements inspired by your comments have been incorporated into this new edition. ORGANIZATION AND APPROACH As in previous editions, our organization follows the popular and effective "Earth-out" progression. We have found that most students, especially those with little scientific background, are much more comfortable studying the relatively familiar solar system before tackling stars and galaxies. Thus, Earth is the first object we discuss in detail. With Earth and Moon as our initial planetary models, we move through the solar system. Integral to our coverage of the solar system is a discussion of its formation. This line of investigation leads directly into a study of the Sun. With the Sun as our model star, we broaden the scope of our discussion to include stars in general--their properties, their evolutionary histories, and their varied fates. This journey naturally leads us to coverage of the Milky Way Galaxy, which in turn serves as an introduction to our treatment of other galaxies, both normal and active. Finally, we reach the subject of cosmology and the large-scale structure and dynamics of the universe as a whole. Throughout, we strive to emphasize the dynamic nature of the cosmos--virtually every major topic, from planets to quasars, includes a discussion of how those objects formed and how they evolve. We continue to place much of the needed physics in the early chapters--an approach derived from years of experience teaching thousands of students. Additional physical principles are developed as needed later, both in the text narrative and in the boxedDiscoveryandMore Preciselyfeatures (describes on p. xxii). We feel strongly that this is the most economical and efficient means of presentation. However, we acknowledge that not all instructors feel the same way. Accordingly, we have made the treatment of physics, as well as the more quantitative discussions, as modular as possible, so that these topics can be deferred to later stages of an astronomy course if desired. Instructors presenting this material in a I -quarter course, who wish to (or have time to) cover only the essentials of the solar system before proceeding on to the study of stars and the rest of the universe, may want to teach only Chapter 4, and then move directly to Chapter 9 (the Sun). NEW AND REVISED MATERIAL Astronomy is a rapidly evolvi

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