A leading astronomer takes readers behind the scenes of the thrilling science of stellar archaeology
Astronomers study the oldest observable stars in the universe in much the same way archaeologists study ancient artifacts on Earth. Anna Frebel takes readers into the far-flung depths of space and time to provide a gripping firsthand account of the cutting-edge science of stellar archaeology. Weaving the latest findings in astronomy with her own compelling insights as one of the world's leading researchers in the field, she explains how sections of the night sky are "excavated" in the hunt for these extremely rare, 13-billion-year-old relic stars and how this astonishing quest is revealing tantalizing new details about the origins and evolution of the cosmos. Along the way, Frebel recounts her own stories of discovery, offering an insider's perspective on this exciting frontier of science.
German-born astronomer Frebel, an assistant professor of physics at MIT, makes this crash course in astronomy accessible to stargazers of all knowledge levels. She starts with the basics, including a summary of the historical connections between astronomy and physics, and incrementally adds topics of greater technicality such as the universe's "chemical evolution," the life cycle of stars, the production of heavy elements, and spectral analysis up to her own research on metal-poor stars. Woven through the science are personal anecdotes from Frebel, which give the impression of a face-to-face lesson with a favorite professor. The information is not organized for ease of reference, but in a manner that flows steadily as new material accretes, making comprehension easier for those with less background knowledge. The sheer density of information can make for slower and more difficult reading, but anyone with a strong interest in astronomy will appreciate the way Frebel employs diagrams and terminology. This book is not an introductory survey of astronomy, but rather an in-depth discussion written by an expert in the field. Frebel offers a handy learning tool for fledgling astronomers and a fascinating, enjoyable look into her own research.