Simply mind blowing, complex facts and theories written in an easy to follow style.
Couper and Henbest are champions of astronomy. Both having been active in the field are now working in the media to write or present on the subject. Couper holds a CBE for services to science and presented the 30 part BBC Radio 4 series Cosmic Quest. Henbest has written 40 books and over a thousand articles on the subject.
Science is in vogue again and the public conciseness has been tuned back into space exploration by the recent New Horizons mission to Pluto or in the last few years the incredible surveillance of our nearest neighbour, the Red Planet by the Mars Rover. Astronomy can be a daunting topic to get into though. The Secret Life of Space forms a great starting point for beginners, even if the title is a little misleading. Within the pages of this book you will learn many fascinating things about space and all that makes up the universe but The authors spends rather more time looking at the mavericks, pioneers and unsung heroes of science who have made important discoveries or imagined theories long before there was conclusive evidence to back them up.
Making a slow start I found the opening chapter dedicated to Stonehenge difficult to get through, but persevere as I did and you’ll find rewards within the pages of this book. From the Big Bang Theory right up to the recent New Horizons mission to Pluto and much more in between, Couper and Henbest manage to describe complex theories and thesis in terms simple enough for even the newest of subscribers to the topic to understand, myself included. I read in awe, simply staggered by the accuracy with which astronomers throughout the ages have been able to predict events far in the future or find the cause of catastrophic moments in Earth’s history from millions of years ago. How astronomers have been able to measure and monitor planets, stars, comets and more from light years away. How new stars and planets have been discovered, the evolution of the telescope and radio waves and their uses in space exploration, and how the quest for intelligent life beyond our solar system continues, despite the lack of backing from governing authorities, thanks to millions of regular folk who volunteer around the globe to allow their computer to monitor data via a screensaver piece of software that works whilst your computer is inactive.
I began reading The Secret Life of Space on my short commute to and from work in London. Living in the capital means that one of the few things I miss from being raised is the countryside is the ability to star gaze. As a kid my father (a keen amateur astronomer) encouraged me to stay up to catch a rare glimpse of a barely visible comet, a meteor shower or lunar eclipse. I witnessed any number of shooting stars simply from sitting awake late at night at my bedroom window. Sadly, such is the light pollution in London, my kids, sadly, barely know the stars. It seems somehow fitting that I was to finish this book on holiday in a rural, coastal area of Brittany in France where the view of the stars is already exponentially better than I’ve become accustomed to living in a city. Better still, at 11pm each night all street lighting is switched off. In the dead of night, with a clear sky you can see every star in the sky, millions of them, it’s a simply staggering sight made more poignant, and a whole lot more familiar for having read this book.