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Stars and solar physics

Stars and solar physics

Book of Sol

11 Sep 2017 Tushna Commissariat
Taken from the September 2017 issue of Physics World

Tushna Commissariat reviews The Sun by Leon Golub and Jay M Pasachoff

The Sun
The Sun

As human beings, we have long been looking up at the big, warm ball of fire in sky, which sustains most life on our planet. Indeed, some of the earliest observational experiments involved the Sun or sunlight, so it’s no surprise that there is a long, documented history of solar research, as early scientists tried to determine what the Sun was made of, its age and even why it shines so bright. In the simply named book The Sun, authors Leon Golub and Jay M Pasachoff detail much of what we do and don’t know about our parent star, complete with 99 pictures to help tell the tale. In an attempt to cover centuries of solar studies, the book is divided into eight chapters that cover the different parts of the Sun, ranging from sunspots and its spectrum, to the corona and prominences. Particularly fascinating is the chapter on “looking inside the Sun”. Golub and Pasachoff detail how seismology played a key role in helping us understand the interior of both the Earth and the Sun. They explain how a technique known as difference imaging was developed in the 1960s that helped us draw the first maps of the solar interior, showing its vibrational modes, and how it ultimately emerged that the solar surface rings like a bell. The book also includes appendices that provide instructions on how to safely observe the Sun and eclipses. While the book is a good resource on all things solar, its pace is rather plodding and the very many references and historical accounts can make for somewhat tedious reading. While it was not the authors’ aim, The Sun is more of a reference book with pretty pictures than a general science book.

  • Leon Golub and Jay M Pasachoff The Sun 2017 Reaktion Books £19.99hb 224pp

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