Starlight Detectives: How Astronomers, Inventors, and Eccentrics Discovered the Modern Universe
by Alan Hirshfeld
Bellevue Literary Press, 2014 (($19.95))
The fundamental tool of astronomy used to be the human eye. It is now the combination of the telescope and the camera, which together have allowed a deeper view of the heavens than earlier generations could have conceived of. Astrophysicist Hirshfeld chronicles the radical changes in our conception of the cosmos that have accompanied the advent of modern astronomy over the past century and a half, “a remarkable and complex period in the development of humanity's oldest science,” he writes. Hirshfeld tells the tale by describing an eclectic selection of the trailblazers of astronomy during this time, from amateurs who poured their personal time and savings into the study of the stars to professional astronomers such as Edwin Hubble, who, in the early 20th century, used the biggest and best telescopes the world had ever seen.