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Astronomy: A Beginner’s Guide to the Universe (8th Edition)


Author: Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan

Publisher: Pearson


Publish Date: January 13, 2016

ISBN-10: 134087704

Pages: 592

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

We are pleased to have the opportunity to present in this book a representative sample of the known facts, evolving ideas, and frontier discoveries in astronomy today.

Astronomy: A Beginner’s Guide to the Universe has been written and designed for students who have taken no previous college science courses and who will likely not major in physics or astronomy. We present a broad view of astronomy, straightforwardly descriptive and without complex mathematics. The absence of sophisticated mathematics, however, in no way prevents discussion of important concepts. Rather, we rely on qualitative reasoning as well as analogies with objects and phenomena familiar to the student to explain the complexities of the subject without oversimplification. We have tried to communicate the excitement that we feel about astronomy and to awaken students to the marvelous universe around us.

We are very gratified that the first seven editions of this text have been so well received by many in the astronomy education community. In using those earlier texts, many of you—teachers and students alike—have given us helpful feedback and constructive criticisms. From these, we have learned to communicate better both the fundamentals and the excitement of astronomy. Many improvements inspired by your comments have been incorporated into this edition.

Organization and Approach

As in previous editions, our organization follows the popular and effective “Earth out” progression. We have found that most students, especially those with little scientific background, are much more comfortable studying the relatively familiar solar system before tackling stars and galaxies. With Earth and Moon as our initial planetary models, we move through the solar system. Integral to our coverage of the solar system is a discussion of its formation. This line of investigation leads directly into a study of the Sun. With the Sun as our model star, we broaden the scope of our discussion to include stars in general—their properties, their evolutionary histories, and their varied fates. This journey naturally leads us to coverage of the Milky Way Galaxy, which in turn serves as an introduction to our treatment of other galaxies. Finally, we reach cosmology and the large-scale structure and dynamics of the universe as a whole. Throughout, we strive to emphasize the dynamic nature of the cosmos—virtually every major topic, from planets to quasars, includes a discussion of how those objects formed and how they evolve.

We place much of the needed physics in the early chapters— an approach derived from years of experience teaching thousands of students. Additional physical principles are developed as needed later, both in the text narrative and in the Discovery and More Precisely boxes (described on p. xiv). We have made the treatment of physics, as well as the more quantitative discussions, as modular as possible, so that these topics can be deferred if desired. Instructors presenting this material in a one-quarter course, who wish to (or have time to) cover only the essentials of the solar system before proceeding on to the study of stars and the rest of the universe, may want to teach only Chapter 4 (the solar system) and then move directly to Chapter 9 (the Sun).

What’s New in This Edition

Astronomy is a rapidly evolving field, and almost every chapter in the eighth edition has been updated with new and late-breaking information. Several chapters have also seen significant internal reorganization in order to streamline the overall presentation,
strengthen our focus on the process of science, and reflect new understanding and emphases in contemporary astronomy. Among the many improvements are the following: New chapter-opening images reflecting the latest astronomical discoveries. Updated astronomical imagery throughout. Streamlined art program providing more direct and accurate representations of astronomical objects.

Increased use of annotations to clarify figure content. Updates in Chapter 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope and its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope; new material on new very large ground-based telescopes now under construction.

New imagery throughout from the recently completed ALMA interferometric array.

Updated coverage in Chapter 4 of the Dawn mission to
asteroids Vesta and Ceres and the Rosetta mission to comet 67 P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Updates in Chapter 4 on exoplanet properties, with a new focus on Earths and super-Earths; revised discussion of habitable zones and Earth-like worlds.
Updates on global CO2 levels and global warming in Chapter 5.
Updated data in Chapter 5 on lunar interior structure following the LCROSS and GRAIL missions; new Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter imagery of lunar surface features.
Updated discussion in Chapter 6 of Mercury’s surface and internal structure in light of the findings of the Messenger probe.
Updated discussion of Mars in Chapter 6, including results from the Curiosity mission.
Updates in Chapter 7 on storm systems on the outer planets, Jupiter’s shrinking Great Red Spot, and Saturn’s polar vortices.
New Discovery feature in Chapter 7 on solar system exploration.

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