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Starlight Detectives: How Astronomers,…

Starlight Detectives: How Astronomers, Inventors, and Eccentrics…

by Alan Hirshfeld

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Starlight Detectives presents the changes in astronomy from the eyes-only, refractor era to the development of the technologies that are the foundation of our modern science. In three sections, the book covers the nearly coincident development of astronomical photography, spectroscopy and the response to the new requirements these burgeoning fields placed on the telescope. The author illuminates the progress through the personal histories of the observers and inventors (many of whom were amateur astronomers), showing the friendships, collaborations and animosities which results in an enjoyable reading experience. We often get told the "what" we know, and with Starlight Detectives we learn how this body of knowledge came to be through the dreams and hard work of those who sought to learn more about the universe around us.

I often found myself at the end of a chapter wanting to read more but finding a natural break in the narrative to do so. The language is not technical but descriptive, making the subject accessible to any one with an interest. There are more detailed biographies of many of the people covered, but this is the first book that I have found that takes such an encompassing view of all 3 technologies and weave them into one great story. ( )
  stargazerdad | Nov 23, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Astronomy has long been one of my favorite subjects to read about and Alan Hirshfeld's Starlight Detectives is an excellent addition to the tradition of telling the history of the science. Over a relatively short amount of time, astronomers have transformed the way we look at our place in the universe, and Hirshfeld captures that story in a narrative which is easy to follow and interesting to discover. We see how the field of astronomy profited from amateurs and professionals, how technology rapidly drove new discoveries, and how relatively unknown people have contributed to what we know about the galaxy and beyond.

The book itself is an easy read. Hirshfeld's writing is clear and engaging, but don't expect anything beyond a fairly straightforward approach to popular science. Hirshfeld's interest in the subject is obvious throughout and that contributes to a streamlined narrative which delivers a lot of information in a digestible format. Recommended for anyone interested in astronomy, history of science, or the history of specific technologies.
  IslandDave | Nov 5, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Alan Hirshfeld's Starlight Detectives is a work of compelling beauty. A love poem to the heroic men and women who pushed forward the boundaries of cosmic knowledge — the amateur star sleuths who invented the science as they went along.

The important advances in photography and spectroscopy played an immense role in our understanding of the scope and construction of the cosmos and, eventually, lead to the establishment of astrophysics as it exists today.

This is the story of the pioneers of astronomy, those driven amateurs who spent long winter nights in observatories of their own design, scanning the night sky for beauty and wonder as much as scientific knowledge and advancement. Men and women who used their personal fortunes to advance what could be considered little more than an eccentric hobby to their neighbors.

I cannot think of a better book to introduce us to the adventurers who looked up at the night sky, as we do still, and needed to know more — to understand our place in this vast cosmos. ( )
  abealy | Aug 27, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Alan Hirshfeld's Starlight Detectives is a gratifying read for those who appreciate history and biography along with their astronomy. Furthermore, I'd nominate this book as a supplement to the recent reboot of Carl Sagan's Cosmos miniseries hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Both the series and Starlight Detectives are a journey of the individual scientists, inventors and dreamers who collectively birthed modern astronomy. ( )
  Daniel.Estes | Aug 10, 2014 |
I received this book through Goodreads First Reads. This book is packed with information about the birth of modern astronomy. It is very detailed and brings in a lot of background on how other fields influenced and were influenced by astronomy, such as photography. Anyone interested in the historical study of science of astronomy will love this book. The only issue I had with this book is how dry it is. It is seriously dry. Worth it, if you're interested. ( )
  LISandKL | Jul 29, 2014 |
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