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Book Review - The Last Stargazers

Posted: 12 September 2020


The Last Stargazers - The Enduring Story of Astronomy's Vanishing Explorers
by Emily Levesque
Copyright ©2020, 321 pages

I learned about The Last Stargazers from an interview that the author did with the MacObserver Background Mode podcast. After listening to her talk about her experiences I knew that I had to read her book.

I was hooked from the very beginning of the Introduction. You will be too.

In her book Dr. Emily Levesque, University of Washington, describes what it is like to be a professional astronomer. The book is part autobiography, so you will learn how Emily came to love astronomy and how she became a professional astronomer. You will also read about the experiences of some other professional astronomers. And you will be treated to many fascinating stories about life as an astronomer. While some of the stories may appear to be myths, they are more in the category of "you can't make this stuff up". Along the way you will learn some of the history of astronomy and even some astronomy and astrophysics (not painful).

Dr. Levesque describes pretty much every type of research that an astronomer can do. You will experience some of the preparation and planning involved to get the data the astronomer seeks, the joy and frustrations of making or trying to make the observations, and then analyzing the data that has been (hopefully) collected. There are "detective stories" as scientists try to track down the source of an equipment problem or decide whether the signal detected is real or not. The book's stories are from personal experiences, the experiences of colleagues, and well-researched historical records. They are funny and sad, exciting and frustrating, and educational and life-changing.


The stories in The Last Stargazers make for an enjoyable read and will resonate with all amateur astronomers as well as with the "I want to be a professional astronomer". The equipment, weather, and moon light struggles are things that all lovers of the night sky experience. Being an astronomer can seem to be a lonely life, but as we all know, the stars are our friends who return to us at night. Also among our friends are other astronomers, both professional and amateur, who have the same love of the night sky as we do and will live through the many challenges to observe and learn everything the Universe has to tell us.

I recommend listening to Dr. Levesque's Background Mode interview and then reading her book. Thanks to Dr. Levesque you will experience the thrills, chills, chuckles, tears, and awesomeness that is the life of the astronomer.

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