The Last Stargazers by Emily Levesque

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The Last Stargazers by Emily Levesque


Post by mikemarotta »

This book is mislabeled. If observational astronomy is in any danger as a profession it is from overpopulation as researchers line up to use the world’s observatories. Not one of them is a dispirited stargazer turned to another profession for lack of opportunity or (worse) from a lack of interest in a field long closed to discovery. No one is vanishing here.

I was disappointed in the long string of cute astronomer stories. Levesque never presented any substance. Despite the sprinkling of millennial neologisms, the solid writing made this a true book and not just a collection of Facebook posts. Levesque was granted an Annie Jump Cannon award from the AAS among other honors for her research in to red supergiants. It was apparently after those milestones that she decided to tell this story of her journey and the friends she met along the way. The action takes place at the largest observatories, Keck in Hawaii, Las Campanas in Chile, Kitt Peak in Arizona, among others. Many, for instance from Palomar, Arecibo, and Green Bank, are referenced as twice-told tales from astronomers who were interviewed to substantiate some of the lore of modern observational astronomy.

What I learned from the book is that professional researchers live pretty much the same working lives that we enjoy as amateurs. Their mirrors are larger and they usually travel farther from home for their dark sky experiences. She tells of animals at remote sites. In my backyard, I have an oppossum who comes by. Supposedly nomadic, this guy has been with me for a few years. He ignores me. I talk to him. He just keeps walking. She talks about equipment and we all have it. She talks about being alone and we usually are. She does have her own "star parties" of sorts: at large observatories researchers live and dine together before their night's work. And most (ordinary) people do not understand what she does for a living.
Levesque Stargazers cover copy.jpeg
The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers by Emily Levesque Source Books, Naperville, Illinois, 2020.
“It’s true that some of us are better than others (people who teach introductory astronomy lab classes or who were dedicated stargazers as kids usually do okay), but usually, the best most of us can manage to do is pick out the better-known constellations, remember the differences between summer and winter constellations, and hazard a decent guess at which planets might be visible in the sky.” (page 70).

Find out more abot Emily Levesque here.

I have a somewhat different review on my blog, NecessaryFacts, ... azers.html.
Michael E. Marotta
Astro-Tech 115 mm APO Refractor
Explore Scientific 102 mm Refractor
National Geographic 70 mm Refractor
Editor AAS History of Astronomy Division
Also member: ASP, BAA, SPA, ALPO, AL
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