From her perch at the Royal Astronomical Society at Imperial College London, Chapman explores the birth of our universe's earliest stars, why they were so unusual and what they can teach us about the universe today. She also offers a first-hand look at the immense telescopes about to come on line to peer into the past, search for the echoes and footprints of these stars and to take this period in the universe's history from the realm of theoretical physics towards the wonder of observational astronomy.
These first stars...have never been seen, and Chapman's new book, First Light: Switching on Stars at the Dawn of Time, does a great job explaining why they've proved so elusive. But don't worry if you can't recall your high school astrophysics; Chapman is a sure-footed and entertaining guide ... As you might expect, there are plenty of mind-blown moments throughout ... Her everyday examples of complex concepts are conversational, witty and elucidating ... Even her footnotes house fun facts ... Chapman's most valuable asset here, aside from her obvious expertise, is her enthusiasm ... it is such a treat to have someone of Chapman's stature willing to carry us along as she reaches for these ancient stars.
First Light, a thoroughly engaging tale that allows us to see science in the making, chronicles current attempts to reveal this hidden era—what we know and what we don’t know. Ms. Chapman herself is in the thick of this endeavor and serves as a wonderful guide, whose voice is reminiscent of Carl Sagan’s , although with an extra and very welcome dollop of impish humor. I know of no other astronomy book that includes references to Doctor Who, Tutankhamen and cyanobacteria in its metaphors and analogies. From page to page, you get caught up in her excitement ... There are moments in First Light when the text might be more at home in an astrophysical journal, but even in those sections the book offers the reader insights on the intricate data and analysis required to reveal the universe’s mysteries. I eagerly await a second edition when the Cosmic Dawn is at last viewed in its full glory—perhaps using a future telescope array mounted on the far side of the Moon.
The text can get pretty technical at times, but Chapman employs a conversational tone and sprinkles in stories and wry observations that will keep readers entertained ... Readers will happily follow along as Chapman covers centuries of speculation, unexplained anomalies, informed conjectures, and current reasoned suppositions. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and should strike just the right notes with audiences who enjoy pondering the mysteries of the universe.