Book Excerpts

Stars Above, Earth Below

"Stars Above, Earth Below" examines a range of astronomical topics, making the connection between them and the landscapes, processes and cultures that one can see and experience at various U.S. national parks. The book features text, graphics and more than 150 spectacular photographs of night skies within the parks to show readers how to connect what they see to greater geological and astronomical phenomena.

“The Milky Way is our home in the Universe,” Dr. Nordgren writes. “This galaxy in which we live is home to the Sun, all the stars we see in the night sky, and 200 billion stars that only begin to be visible with binoculars and telescopes. The Milky Way is a flattened disc of stars arching across the night sky late in the evening in the Northern Hemisphere. Sadly, those who live in towns, cities, or urban fringe areas cannot see this faint band of light. Today, the U.S. National Park Service has a mission to preserve not only the natural beauty on the ground, but also to preserve the night sky overhead.”

For each park and topic covered in the book, the story unfolds in three steps: What does the reader see? What is the scientific cause or explanation of what the reader sees? And finally, how do the two relate to our existence, our world, and our universe? Chapter 3, for example, explains the causes of tides one sees while visiting the Atlantic Ocean at Maine’s Acadia National Park. Tides are a direct visible example of how planetary bodies affect one another, and has implications for the possibility of other life in the solar system.

“The planet Jupiter, which one can see in the sky during specific times of the year, has a moon upon which it exerts such enormous tides that its frozen interior has melted, resulting in a liquid ocean far larger and deeper than our own. While examining the life we see in our ocean’s tidal pools, we are able to understand the causes of another planet’s ocean, and wonder what the prospect of life may be beneath its waves”

In Chapter 8 Dr. Nordgren describes the lives of the stars we see in the sky overhead, and the Sun we see by day, and how they are ultimately responsible for the atoms that make up our planet and all living things, including ourselves.

“By the light of stars, now lost to the coming light of day, I acknowledge their power and presence to make me who I am today. In every sense of the word I am who I am because of them. On a personal level they fill me with wonder and awe. On a physical level their life and death gave rise to my body, stimulated my evolution, and altered the environment that drove my ancestors…. From me to the Sun, and to the stars that made me, I am connected to everyone on this planet and we are connected through this Earth to ten million millennia of stellar evolution.”

Purchase Stars Above, Earth Below

Publisher: Springer-Praxis Books

1st Edition, 2010, Approx. 200 p. 192 illus., 170 in color

ISBN: 978-1-4419-1648-8

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