Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nearest Star:The Surprising Science of Our Sun, 2nd Edition, by Leon Golub and Jay M. Pasachoff

Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9781107672642, February 2014

The sun is, for us here on Earth, the most important star: the one that dominates our world, essential to our lives, as well as what will ultimately destroy our planet.

Golub and Pasachoff lay out not just our knowledge of our star, but how we gained that knowledge. It has been a long process, gaining speed only in the last couple of centuries, and a far more convoluted path than at first glance it might appear. That's because the Earth and Sun interact, and it isn't always apparent what the cause of a particular effect is. Climate in particular is the product of a number of interacting and chaotic causes. Our orbit is elliptical, not circular; the Earth precesses on its axis; the Sun itself has cycles, the eleven-year sunspot cycle as well as other, longer cycles--and once we know all this, there's still more to understand.
We look at the Sun, and we see a great, glowing ball. It doesn't look complicated at all. Yet even before we had more advanced instruments, eclipses and the telescope let us discover and begin to study the photosphere of the Sun. The authors make the tale of how we made crucial discoveries, as well as the substance of those discoveries themselves, exciting and compelling.

The subject matter is at times demanding, but the writing is clear and understandable.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys good science writing.

I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley.