Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Searching for the Oldest Stars: Ancient Relics from the Early Universe by Anna Frebel ( a review)

I just finished reading this book recently and well I am ready to put to words my thoughts.

First I enjoyed it, but be warned there are three chapters that are pretty hard to get through. The reader really needs a good understanding of how atoms and chemistry works for those chapters. The remaining chapters are very good "popular level" book reading and I loved reading them. Her talking about the fires in Australia that nearly burned down a power pole that controlled her telescope, the computer reboot problems of a telescope (hmm sounds like what amateurs deal with too!) and how her PhD thesis made a huge discovery for her, are worth the price of the book. I also liked that she included personal pictures of her using telescopes instead of sticking to stock images. I would also like to convey that the author's love from astronomy and science really does come through in the book.

The problem(s) for the book though are those three chapters about how stars become metal poor (and the chemistry in stars) are really hard reading for a normal person or someone maybe with a passing interest in space. I really struggled in those chapters. I however do not consider myself well versed in the science of how stars work however. I would guess those chapters though are at a reading level above some of the 101 level astronomy text books out there such as Astronomy Today or the text Universe. For the record the author does warn those chapters might be hard for casual readers in her introduction.

Overall though I enjoyed this book as a whole but I did wonder after finishing it if the author took a couple of her lectures and a couple of public speaking engagements and tried to merge them into a book. The book really to me feels that way looking back on it after reading. I was really hopeful that this book would be more memoir/popular science reading then it was, those were the parts I enjoyed the most when they were present. I would completely read a memoir type book on the author's travels as an astronomer.

I would lastly like to say that while this review may come off as critical, it shouldn't. Anna Frebel and her book are really good reading, and I think any amateur astronomer who is interested in the lives of stars would really enjoy this book.

One last thing, the author is on twitter, and I did tweet to her and she responded. I didn't ask her any questions from her book, but I do get the impression that if a reader were to ask a question she would be very responsive to those questions.

Closing I would really like to hear Anna Frebel speak, I imagine this subject of old stars would make for an interesting lecture at a star party or astronomy club meeting. Maybe she will pop up on one of there SVA lectures or SETI lectures on YouTube!

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