Cover image for The turtle and the stars : observations of an earthbound astronomer
The turtle and the stars : observations of an earthbound astronomer
Upgren, Arthur R.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Times Books/Henry Holt and Co., 2002.
Physical Description:
xx, 250 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QB44.3 .U64 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



An enchanting look at the heavens that unlocks the sky's mysteries and celebrates the beauty of the universe.
No matter where we travel on Earth, the sky is the one great constant, bearing extraordinary colors and images in every kind of weather. Modern astronomy has revealed many secrets of the sky, and now the most intriguing ones have been distilled for a popular audience. With illustrations and engaging text, "The Turtle and the Stars" brings stargazers face-to-face with facts and lore. Topics include: What color is the atmosphere of Mars, and might it someday appear as blue as ours? How does the Milky Way cast shadows? Why is it that we never see the sunset as it's actually occurring? Earthly questions range from why the Taj Mahal glimmers when you gaze up at it to why the top of the Empire State Building travels farther than its lower floors each day. With contagious enthusiasm, Arthur Upgren also invites us to contemplate the natural beauty of the universe through recollecting scenes such as a leatherback turtle depositing her eggs under a sky lit only by Venus, or witnessing a total solar eclipse in Venezuela. A treasure trove of facts sprinkled with references to history, literature, film, and music, this is the ultimate tour for armchair astronomers and naturalists alike.

Author Notes

Arthur Upgren, is a senior research scientist in the astronomy department at Yale and the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Life is profoundly influenced by celestial mechanics, a point impressed on astronomer Upgren when he witnessed a sea turtle come ashore one night to lay her eggs. His account of the scene, and the underlying cycle of night and day, opens his series of musings on the sky's changing appearance--which fewer and fewer notice due to encroaching light pollution. To the extent the sky is noticed, it's in an unscientific spirit, such as the way we blame full moons as the cause for aberrant behavior or claim equinoxes have the «power» to balance eggs on end. Upgren patiently debunks such foolishness and elsewhere offers interesting explanations of the sky's look resulting from the earth's spin and the slight eccentricity of its orbit. He also incorporates the major historical steps in discovering the distances to the moon, sun, and nearer stars. (The latter is also covered in the excellent book Parallax [BKL Ap 1 01] by Alan Hirshfeld.) An approachable potpourri, Upgren's essays will delight and inform astronomy buffs, whether students or recreational readers. Gilbert Taylor.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Why does the sun seem to elongate before it sets below the horizon? Why do some stars look blue and others red? Yale University astronomer Upgren (Night Has a Thousand Eyes) takes readers on a tour of the night sky and answers these and other questions in this winsome collection of essays. He tells us that in 50,000 years the stars in the Big Dipper will no longer be in a recognizable asterism; explains why stars seem first to move in one direction, then in another; and addresses the problem of urban light pollution. Though science buffs may already be familiar with much of this material, novices and younger readers should find much to inspire and inform them. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Upgren, a professional astronomer associated with two universities (Yale and Wesleyan), has two previous popular science works to his credit (Night Has a Thousand Eyes and Weather: How It Works and Why It Matters). This collection focuses on astronomy, and many of the essays are tied together by the subject of light pollution. Upgren, a longtime crusader against light pollution, argues that excessive and poorly directed lighting has increasingly interfered with ground-based astronomy and adversely affected a number of wildlife species. He explains how reasonable lighting controls can help astronomy and the environment without harming human public safety or reasonable advertising needs. Other brief essays discuss various astronomical topics at a lay reader's level. In general, Upgren's book makes for good reading and could be used as a supplemental text for college-level introductory courses. However, it could have been improved by tighter editing to eliminate repetitious sections. Also, a few areas where the line of argument is not pursued very vigorously could have been either strengthened or eliminated. For general science collections. Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.