Astronomy Today: Chapter 1

I mentioned a few weeks ago how, in my copious spare time, I’m trying to brush up on astronomy. I ordered a text book that came highly recommended, Astronomy Today, 7th edition, put out by Pearson, and so far, I’ve found the time to get through exactly one chapter of that text book. But it was a lot of fun. As it turns out, the text book is designed for people without much of a science background. I was a physics major when I started college (not when I finished) and so I have more of background than is needed for the book, but it was still refreshing to read an astronomy text that starts at the very beginning.

The first chapter covered the foundations of astronomy, with a lot of emphasis on how scientists know what they know about things that they cannot actually go and visit. How do we know how big the sun is, or how far away the stars are? This was all familiar to me, but it was nice to have the refresher, particularly on some of the basic geometry and trigonometry required for computing parallax and angular diameter. The chapters also covered things like why we have seasons on Earth, the phases of the moon and lunar and solar eclipses (including the difference between full eclipses and annular eclipses).

All told, it was a good review of the very basics. I’ve been trying to find the time to jump into the second chapter which covers the law of motion, among other things. Probably not this weekend, but maybe sometime next week.