The Sun is becoming more and more popular with amateur astronomers nowadays. Thanks to the availability of Sun-viewing telescopes, like the Coronado PSTs, which allow amateurs to enjoy crystal-clear views of sunspots, prominences and other features on the surface, the Sun is now a very popular observing target in its own right, not just seen as “that annoying bright thing which infests the sky until it gets dark and then the good stuff appears…” And NASA’s amazing Solar Dynamics Observatory sends back stunningly-detailed images of our nearest star, in multiple wavelengths, every day, allowing us to watch sunpots and prominences appear, grow and fade away in almost high definition detail. It’s a great time, then, for a popular-level book looking at the Sun to hit the shelves.
“Our Explosive Sun” by Pal Brekke (Springer books) is a very good “beginners guide” to the Sun, its features and structure, and significance. A small, slim volume, it looks lightweight at first glance, but once opened it proves itself to be a real treasure trove of facts and information about Sol. This isn’t a heavy science tome: it’s a no-nonsense entry-level book, with each two page spread covering a different topic (“A Star among Billions”; “The Sun – A Variable Star”; “How you can study the Sun and the aurora”), briefly but concisely. In fact, it looks and reads like a very good children’s book, though that’s clearly not the marked it’s aimed at.
That’s not to say it’s a dumbed-down book. Absolutely not; this is a great example of a book that’s had all the unnecessary 21st century science book clutter and froth removed, leaving just basic facts and figures behind that are actually useful and educational.
The illustrations are well-chosen, a mixture of very up to date photographs and artwork, which complement the text well. There are a few frankly odd illustrations – pieces of artwork that left me scratching my head a little! – but the book is full of images that illustrate the subject perfectly.
After reading this book I felt like I’d just been in the audience of a lecture given by a solar expert (which is what the author is). Each turn of the page is like seeing another well-produced and -chosen Powerpoint slide appear on a screen, with text kept to a minimum.
This book won’t tell you *everything* known about the Sun, but it is a very good introductory guide, and a good snapshot of our current understanding of the Sun, how it works, and how important it is to us here on Earth. Reading it cover to cover wouldn’t take long, but when you’d finished you’d be able to go outide, see the Sun blazing in the sky and understand it better. And that’s all you want from a book, surely?
“Our Explosive Sun” – Pal Brekke, Springer Books, ISBN 978-1-4614-0570-2
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