In 1929, Edwin Hubble announced the greatest discovery in the history of astronomy since Galileo first turned a telescope to the heavens. The galaxies, previously believed to float serenely in the void, are in fact hurtling apart at an incredible speed: the universe is expanding. This stunning discovery was the culmination of a decades-long arc of scientific and technical advancement. In its shadow lies an untold, yet equally fascinating, backstory whose cast of characters illuminates the gritty, hard-won nature of scientific progress.
The path to a broader mode of cosmic observation was blazed by a cadre of 19th-century amateur astronomers and inventors, galvanized by the advent of photography, spectral analysis, and innovative technology to create the entirely new field of astrophysics. From William Bond, who turned his home into a functional observatory, to John and Henry Draper, a father and son team who were trailblazers of astrophotography and spectroscopy, to geniuses of invention such as Lon Foucault and George Hale, who founded the Mount Wilson Observatory, Hirshfeld reveals the incredible stories and the ambitious dreamers behind the birth of modern astronomy.
What did you like best about Starlight Detectives? What did you like least?
Human stories are interesting and engaging. The technical aspects of telescopes are reasonably covered, and I would like to have heard more about the astrophysics that was discovered.
The narration is the worst I have ever heard on any audiobook.
What didn’t you like about Joe Barrett’s performance?
Breathless delivery, all throat and croaking, trying to insert passion into the wrong parts of sentences, which he only partially understands.
Just when you have managed to ignore the incessant breathiness and concentrate on the story, the narrator starts trying what he believes are accents.
My god, the accents.
It is difficult to listen to the letters of an English astronomer when they are voiced by someone apparently doing an impression of Dick van Dyke who has picked up vowels from Yorkshire, Memphis and Mumbai.
Extraordinarily well written!! Perfect balance of technical and human storytelling. A must read for anyone interested in astronomy. Easily read and enjoyed by non-technical savy y listeners.
18 of 21 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to Starlight Detectives the most enjoyable?
I found the history of the characters behind the evolution of the telescope and the camera the most interesting. Although the story behind the spectrograph was surprisingly well told. The reader is perfect.
What other book might you compare Starlight Detectives to and why?
Which scene was your favorite?
Louis Daguerre and the invention of the camera. The history behind the modern and old observatories.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
13 of 18 people found this review helpful
There is difficulty in this genre - the book jumps in time all the time to narrate different lines of the complex intervined history of invention and discovery. This keeps you on your toes when listening, but this is probably the best way to represent those kind of information
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
A week written and well read account of the history of astrophysics. As an amateur astronomer of many decades I found it fascinating to read about the struggles of pioneers in celestial photography in particular.
12 of 20 people found this review helpful
This is not my favorite book on discovering the skies. It is jam packed full of information, with so many characters, I could not develop a clear sense of any of them.
The story is really more about the improvements in imaging the universe than of the discoveries themselves. There is more than I ever imagined about the competitive approaches to photographing through telescopes. (I use the word photographing generically - I know that it not inclusive, as is exhaustively discussed in this book). I was surprised at the resistance to using anything other than the human eye to document what has been seen in the skies.
Astronomy and astrophysics have always drawn my curiosity and sense of discovery, but this book, sadly did not take me on that journey.
As noted in other reviews, Joe Barrett is a fine narrator but not the best for this book. His skills are probably better suited for fiction.
For something more comprehensible in an audiobook, try anything by Stephen Hawking or Neil deGrasse Tyson or look at the highest rated books in the astronomy category. This one is a bit of a snooze that should probably be left for those with a special interest in its narrow focus.
What I had hoped for was a short history of astronomy written for the layperson. But what I found instead was a book that goes into a textbook level of detail---one whose target audience would be those working or studying in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics.
Most of the book's focus is on the 1800s. Of the 13+ hours, perhaps a half-hour or so of it delves into the early 1900s, and that's where it ends. I found that disappointing, as my primary interest was in learning about advancements from the 1900s to present.
None of this should be deemed as a critique of this well written book. They're simply observations to help readers determine whether or not this is what they're looking for.
This book is a great listen for anyone interested in astronomy. Most of the book is spent on an account of the transition of astronomy from an amateur hobby in the 19th century to a professional and rigorous scientifically field, culminating in Edwin Hubble's work at Mount Wilson Observatory to establish that spiral nebulae are galaxies well outside our own that are speeding away from us at a rate that increases with their distance to us. It gives some very interesting historical perspective on many current active fields of research in astrophysics, such as dark matter and energy.
A bit dry at times but charming none the less. I wish there was more to the early history.
This book gives a very detailed history of astronomy, including photography of celestial objects, spectroscopy, to the discoveries of Hubble and Einstein. The book goes into too much detail at times, but covers each astronomer well along with colleagues and enemies. The reader does an excellent job.
This is a non-fiction book, read by a performer as though it were a fiction that requires distinct voices for each character. Thus, he uses exaggerated, even goofy accents based on the national origin of each researcher quoted. This is most distracting, particularly because his accent for every English writer, no matter how well-heeled, sounds as though the researcher grew up in London's East End. It's the full Van Dyke.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful