Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Unveiled Glories of the Night Sky Here Is a Witty Guide to Incredible Sights in the Heavens That Can Be Seen with the Naked Eye by Those Who Escape the City Lights

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Unveiled Glories of the Night Sky Here Is a Witty Guide to Incredible Sights in the Heavens That Can Be Seen with the Naked Eye by Those Who Escape the City Lights

Article excerpt

Secrets of the Night Sky: The Most Amazing Things in the Universe You Can See With the Naked Eye By Bob Berman Illustrated by Alan McKnight; William Morrow, 320 pp., $23

IF you want to see some of the most amazing things in the universe, all you have to do is get away from the city lights -- at least 50 miles, to be safe -- take out a blanket, and gaze up. After just a few minutes you will begin to see the most incredible sights.

Most people know the heavenly basics: the stars, the planets, and the occasional meteor. After reading Bob Berman's "Secrets of the Night Sky," you will know what else to look for, and you will understand a lot more about what you are seeing.

Consider those small dots that occasionally move in straight lines across the sky in the early night. They are satellites, writes Berman, who then explains the secret to distinguishing between abandoned spy satellites and space junk.

Ever see a faint glowing band of light that rises from the horizon at an angle? It's the zodiacal light, which is the sun's light reflecting off the dust in the orbital paths of the planets. The light is visible only after sunset in \early spring and before dawn during fall, and only when the zodiacal constellations are at their highest point in the sky.

Many books have been written in recent years on the structure of the cosmos and the evolution of the universe. What makes Berman's book truly exceptional is twofold: his emphasis on things that can be seen in the sky with the unaided eye and his erudite but informal tone that combines with a puckish prose. It is as if one had one's own private tutor. His wit never ceases to crack a grin on the reader's face.

Every dot of light is a jumping-off point for Berman. There is Andromeda, a galaxy of more than a trillion stars, which is on a collision course with our own. (Estimated time of arrival: 5 billion years. …

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