Andrew Fraknoi, Foothill College
David Morrison, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Sidney Wolff, National Optical Astronomy Observatories (Emeritus)
Pub Date: 2016
ISBN 13: 978-1-9381682-8-4
Publisher: OpenStax CNX
Conditions of Use
The textbook is very comprehensive. From debunking Astrology , to planets and moon in the Solar System, to Stars and galaxies "Astronomy" provides read more
The textbook is very comprehensive. From debunking Astrology , to planets and moon in the Solar System, to Stars and galaxies "Astronomy" provides students with excellent depth on many aspects of astronomy. Each chapter has an extensive glossary that helps students understand astronomy jargon and concepts.
My cross checking of the book disclosed only one minor error. On page 370, the text reads: " about 150K or about 125 degrees C" It should read: about 150K or about -125C. I did not find any other errors in my cross checking.
This text is very up to date with recent finding from New Horizons, Rosetta, Kepler and other spacecraft missions as well as the recent development with observatories and instruments. The many excellent examples and every day language of complex concepts from Newton's Laws to Cosmology will stand the test of time.
Clarity is a strong point of this book. It is obvious the authors took great care to find ways to clarify and simply astronomical concepts. Excellent illustrations and many photographs enhanced the written text to produce a better understanding for students.
Consistency is not an issue with this textbook. The authors were careful to explain terms and concepts clearly and then refer to them consistently throughout the book. References were appropriately made to refer students either ahead or behind in the text to previous or future terms or concepts.
Once again, modularity is carefully constructed. Each chapter is well crafted into subsections that are well woven together to guide students through a subject area in an appropriate pathway.
As with modularity, structure is well thought-out and crafted. Topics are introduced in appropriate fashion to enhance student learning.
Students should not have any issues or problems navigating this textbook. It builds in a organized manner from one topic to the next.
I particularly enjoyed the prose of the textbook. It was easy for beginning astronomy students to read and understand.
Special sections throughout the text highlighted the rich cultural diversity and struggles of women and minorities in the history of astronomy.
A wonderful up to date text for astronomy students with striking images and illustrations. I especially liked the end of chapter questions for individuals and group for collaborative efforts. Well done!
The text covers all areas of Astronomy and provides an excellent discussion of science in general. “In science (after formal education and read more
The text covers all areas of Astronomy and provides an excellent discussion of science in general. “In science (after formal education and training), everyone is encouraged to improve upon experiments and to challenge any and all hypotheses.” The index is effective with direct links to pages where the terms or used. There is no glossary.
The information in the text is mostly accurate. However, on page 970 the authors describe Pluto as the “outermost (dwarf) planet in our solar system.” There are dwarf planets farther out than Pluto. Also, the text says we see no obvious cloud cover at all for Uranus. That was true when Voyager flew by but later pictures taken with HST have shown some cloud cover.
The content is up-to-date and written in such a way that necessary updates will be easy to implement.
The textbook is written in a manner that is enjoyable to read and explains the concepts well.
I found no inconsistencies.
The text book is well modulated.
The text is well structured. In particular, I like how the material about the rings and moons of the Jovian planets is in a separate chapter. However, I would put celestial distances before the census of stars, since before we can determine the luminosities of stars to take a star census we need to know the distances.
The text had no interface issues.
I only found two grammatical errors. Chapter 1: , “An undergraduate science major today knows more about science and did math than Sir Isaac Newton, one of the most renowned scientists who ever lived.” The ‘did’ doesn’t belong in this sentence. Chapter 11: “Most the atmosphere above this level” should be “Most of the atmosphere above this level”.
The text is not culturally insensitive.
The text incorporates useful links to animations, online image libraries, and videos. There are effective figures throughout the book. The authors include helpful analogies, although I found the stillborn Calisto analogy disturbing and insensitive. This is a textbook I would consider using in my classroom.
The book is comprehensive in topic with depth of coverage suitable for general education students in either a one or two semester course. The text read more
The book is comprehensive in topic with depth of coverage suitable for general education students in either a one or two semester course. The text includes chapter outlines and overviews, learning objectives for each section within the chapter, and a glossary of key terms and summary following each chapter. In addition there is a list of articles, websites and videos for each of the chapters, and a set of collaborative group exercises and various kinds of review questions to help students understand the material. There is no glossary at the end of the text, but since the book is designed to be used in modular form it is probably more useful to have a glossary associated with the chapters where the terms appear. The depth of the coverage is adequate for the general education population, but probably not sufficient for students majoring in astronomy or physics. It includes math where appropriate, but it is not a major focus and not necessary to comprehension of the basic concepts in the book. The coverage of basic physics is less than in some of the other introductory textbooks, but again seems to be adequate for this level. One thing I like is that the authors introduce physics concepts in early chapters, then refer back to them when needed and extend the concepts in chapters where understanding such things as how spectra form and the role of density are crucial. I found that the index is minimal and lacks important terms that would help the student navigate the text as a whole. It may be because the book is new, it was published in final form near the end of Fall 2016. The websites and links cited throughout each chapter are very helpful when students read it in pdf on-line and can click directly on the links to get simulations, additional images and relevant web pages. My concern here would be that if the links are not reviewed frequently students will be frustrated with "dead" links and references. However, the linked resources are excellent for students who see themselves as "visual" learners, and are more easily engaged with videos and interesting pictures.
My reading so far hasn't revealed any inaccuracies beyond some minor typos that one would expect with any newly published text. In general the authors seem to be good at presenting current understanding of astronomical processes, as well as mentioning areas where knowledge is incomplete. Students often wonder why they should study science when what was "correct" today, is discarded tomorrow. The authors deal in a few sentences with the question of Pluto's status as a planet and make a case for it being classified as a dwarf planet. It might have been useful to use this topic as a route into talking about classification systems and their role in scientific understanding and discovery. While this question is not addressed in depth, links to other materials, including a debate about planetary designation, are useful to instructors who want to pursue the idea of definition and classification.
The text is as up-to-date as possible in a field as volatile as astronomy. The text itself includes information about the New Horizons mission to Pluto in 2016, the first measurement by LIDO of gravitational waves. The authors have promised new editions and there is currently an errata list on the textbook OpenStax page. If, as suggested, the book is regularly revised, and the links (which are highly like to move or become outdated) are checked, the book should stay at least as current as any textbook in print.
The book is written at a clear and accessible level for non-science majors. Frequent analogies help those new to astronomy to build useful mental images. Fro example, when discussing the age of the universe, the authors make an analogy where students leave a party and drive home at a constant speed, then by working back can figure out when they left the party. Technical terms are generally explained in the context of the chapters, which means that, for the most part, chapters, and even sections can stand alone.
The book has a standard format for each chapter which repeats consistently. This makes it easy to know where to start if you want to find something like the definitions or and overview of section learning goals. The technical terminology is at the same level throughout which is very helpful since the number of new words introduced in a typical astronomy course can be daunting. It appears that most terms are defined as they arise, and defined in slightly different terms in new contexts in other chapters.
I used the first half of the text, the solar system chapters, in a course in fall 2016. The text was easy to organize around the topics in the order I wanted to cover them since the table of contents links directly to the chapters. I wanted more background on solar system formation and wa able to pull in part of Chapter 21 which deals with the birth of stars and the discovery of planets outside the solar system, that, combined with a section of Origin of the solar system in Chapter 7 and yet another section on the topic in chapter 14 gave enough reading for the students to begin thinking about how a solar system might form and how we would know. In some ways it might have been better to have just one chapter on this topic. On the other hand, it is useful to have sections on the topic in various chapters so that each can stand alone. I like the feeling of freedom I have with this text for that reason. One downside is that the text is Pdf making it hard to rearrange in a sequence that might fit my course objects better for some topics. After using the book I may at some point request a "custom" copy, but students seemed to do well with it in the form it has now. The text is easy to use in "bite-sized" chunks, but also has enough from from section to section that it doesn't feel like a random selection of factoids. The themes of science process, how we know, and short biographical portraits of influential people in the field all serve to connect the pieces together and at the same time allow the book to feel unified even when skipping chapters or sections.
For the most part topics are presented in the same order as in any one of a dozen other standard astronomy textbooks. There is perhaps less emphasis on basic classical physics in stand-alone chapters than in most other tests, but much of what is needed in terms of the basics is also woven in where it is relevant. Because I teach a two semester course those chapters must be repeated in each semester which is tedious for students who take the courses in sequence. I like having two chapters on light, one concentrating on spectra and what light is, the other on spectra and how it is used in stellar astronomy. Similarly, the topic of other solar systems comes up twice, once in the first half when discussing solar systems and then again in the last chapter of the text in the context of life in the universe. I regularly rearrange the order in which students are introduced to material, mostly because I prefer not to spend a large part of the semester preparing students to understand astronomy instead of having them get a good introduction to what they are interested in first, then going back to ask the how and why kinds of questions. This book works well for that when it is in digital form.
The pdf version seems to work very well. I use an LMS extensively and posting the links to the chapters for each week's work seems to be useful. The downside is the problem I see with any e-text, that flipping through pages to look for something to review or study further is not easy. But overall the text is easy to read in pdf form and has the advantage of being able to increase the size of images and graphs to make them more readable. In print form I see some oddities. There are occasional large expanses of white space for no apparent reason, most likely because an illustration comes before or after. Now and there there are "orphan" ends or beginning of sentences that didn't quite fit on the page before or after. But images and graphs and diagrams are all large enough to read easily and are more or less in line with the text that references them.
The few small errors I found were mostly typos it appears and the errata list on the book's web pages clarifies the ones that have turned up that are more significant.
While the text is not overtly insensitive or offensive, I did find that the majority of faces in the images were European and American males. This is probably to be expected historically, and while there were several nice bios of women, Margaret Gelle and Andrea Glez for example, the women who are documented in historical astronomy, Annie Jump Cannon, Cecilie Payne Gaposchkin, and Caroline Herschel are present in small pictures only, in spite of the fact that there are interesting and relevant stories about each. William and Margaret Huggins appear in a small image as well and I would be interested in knowing more about both of them. Subrahmanya Chandresekhar has a nice picture and story, and John Goodrichke- who was deaf are representatives of those who come from a different culture and overcame physical difficulties to work in the field, but I do think the authors could have done better with this aspect. There are some nice bits of poetry and some questions that relate astronomy to various works of literature and art, but I think even more of that would benefit a readership that often questions how astronomy can possibly be relevant.
I have rated this book at the top in most categories, partly because there really is nothing else quite like it and it sets a high standard. It is certainly time for texts that can be used in a flexible modular way at low, or no cost. I imagine the text will continue to evolve and improve as long as there are resources to support this kind of effort. One difficulty personally is that we used a different text for our online course and now will need to redo the narrated powerpoints in order to switch to this text. The powerpoints these authors supplied are a good start. I am also looking for a homework resource such as Mastering Astronomy that can be paired with this course at low cost. Re-designing the courses to use Open Educational Resources is a work in progress. I am extremely happy to have found a textbook as useful as this one to begin with.
I found this textbook to be a very comprehensive coverage of Astronomy, but possibly structured a little strangely. read more
I found this textbook to be a very comprehensive coverage of Astronomy, but possibly structured a little strangely.
I found the accuracy of the textbook to be spot on.
I think this textbook will be as relevant in 10 years as any textbook could possibly be, and the ideal thing about the open source format is that a paper copy of this text will not need to be updated in the future.
I found the clarity of this text to be reasonable, and the only area lacking in clarity was the structure of the text and not the content.
The consistency was very good.
The textbook was entirely modular, making it very adaptable to be approached over the course of a semester.
The organization of the textbook seemed to be the most lacking part of it. I found the organization to be very strange and non-linear.
The quality of the images and user interface didn't include any problems for me.
I did not find any grammatical errors on my reading of the text.
I found no instances of offensive content in the book.
My overall impression of the book was very good. The images were very nice (and I think that would be a beneficial area to include as a review criteria) and the content was accurate and consise. My only concern is in the chapter structuring, in particular to material about the history of astronomy. I think it would better serve the students if this was organized chronologically instead of being split the way it is.
Astronomy by OpenStax covers the basic topics for an introductory astronomy class. This includes night sky, planets, sun, stars (life and death), read more
Astronomy by OpenStax covers the basic topics for an introductory astronomy class. This includes night sky, planets, sun, stars (life and death), galaxies and life in the universe. The only topic from my previous book that was not covered as much in this one was the possible ends of the universe (Heat Death, etc.). As this was always a section I went through quickly anyway, I don't really mind its loss. All other topics were covered in as much or more detail than other introductory Astronomy textbooks I have used over the years.
Considering that most of the information comes from NASA or ESA (and the space agencies of other countries as well) it is accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date. The breadth of the sources helps make the information unbiased and representative of the current ideas and theories while acknowledging that there are competing ideas (and that scientific experiments will help determine which theory most correctly matches the universe as we see it).
The content of the book is very up-to-date. There are updated sections that include information from recent missions and/or pictures, links and videos. I like this as it allows me to talk about these topics (like New Horizons) when they are in the news or students hear about them and link right to these sections. It also means helps to highlight the importance of certain missions by giving them their own sections and showing students how much information was learned from them. This will also make it easy to update with new information as it comes in.
New terms are highlighted and defined in the text throughout to help student understanding. The language is clear and not complicated. My students have so far been able to read and understand the language with no major problems.
The book is consistent throughout.
Each chapter is divided into separate sections. These sections are generally pretty compact and easy to read, which is helpful in convincing students to read. Each section is further divided into topics by large, bolded headers. This helps make the different topics and sections clear to the students. The subdivision is also helpful in assigning reading at certain times. I will sometimes leave out the more detailed sections (for example 11.7 might be skipped) and then either talk about them in class or link to them if students post a question related to that. This means that the students who want more information have an easy way to find it, but the students who are just trying to understand what is happening are able to focus on the main topics/points as needed. Most of the sections and chapters are fairly independent (some of the planet ones are a little more connected). When new chapters reference material that was discussed in earlier chapters, there is usually a very brief reminder about the idea and also a link back to the previous section so the students can go back and reread if they don't remember.
The order and flow of the content was fine. OpenStax also has sample schedules available for teachers that show how you would order the content depending on what you want to emphasize in your course. I typically do the more traditional Sky, Planets, Sun, Stars, Galaxies type of flow (which is the general order of the book). But it is set up so that you can do just a planet version, a galaxy version, etc. and the sections and chapters are separate enough that it will still work.
I use the online interface primarily. I find the content side bar option is very helpful and makes for easy navigation. I use this to scroll through and check the sections I want. I also use the search function to find the sections that talk about what I am interested in (or to find something that I read before and can't find again). The only reason problem I find is that sometimes the section or in chapter links are broken. I report them when I find them (and the reporting of error is very easy) and I know that it's hard to keep all the links in a book like this correct. It is a minor problem. Many of my students like to use the .pdf version of the book (as they can use it while offline). This is helpful for them, but they do lose the links and some of the interactive things they can do (lots of the links are to applications that are interactive). However the content section in .pdf version links to the chapters, which is nice for the students. I have not seen the paper copy as that is a fairly new product.
There are occasional text and grammatical errors found in the book. However, these have been quickly corrected in the online version when a report was submitted. These were not errors that detracted from the overall ability to understand the material, and there were only a few throughout the whole of the book.
The book draws from multiple space agencies (though NASA is one of the largest sources) and highlights scientists from multiple countries throughout the chapters. This is helpful in making the book culturally relevant. Beyond that I have not found offensive language in the book.
Overall I have enjoyed using this book. I like the layout and content, especially the links and the pictures. There is an emphasis on the method of discovery as well as what we know which is important and welcome. The short sections help encourage students to do the reading and the online free version means that more students are actually getting and reading the book. The students have enjoyed using some of the interactive links and there have been some that I ended up using in-class assignments as well. The students have enjoyed the book and found it easy to read and use. I am very glad that I made the switch as I feel that is has worked better with the students (both academically and financially) without losing any of the science information or accuracy. In addition, OpenStax does provide some teacher resources that are helpful (power points with the pictures, sample schedules, etc.) which make the transition to a new textbook a little less stressful.
This text is very comprehensive at nearly 1200 pages for an introductory astronomy text. It covers more topics than any other astronomy text at this read more
This text is very comprehensive at nearly 1200 pages for an introductory astronomy text. It covers more topics than any other astronomy text at this level that I have seen. It has thirty solid chapters with each chapter very complete. The thirteen appendices have all the data that could be possibly be of interest for this course.
This text is very comprehensive at nearly 1200 pages for an introductory astronomy text. It covers more topics than any other astronomy text at this level that I have seen. It has thirty solid chapters with each chapter very complete. The thirteen appendices have all the data that could be possibly be of interest for this course. I didn’t see any errors other than what is addressed in the online errata. Pointing the students to errata would be a good idea but since the text is open source, it will be easy to incorporate these changes much more easily.
One of the exciting aspects of astronomy is the huge advances that are made on a regular basis with improved imaging and analysis. As it stands, it is one of the more up to date texts. As an open source text that can be edited, it will be easy to incorporate new information and understanding.
One of the challenges in an astronomy text is describing dynamic three-dimensional situations on a two-dimensional static page. This text does as well as any other on the page but also links out to web-based animations and simulations for additional clarity. Terminology and key concepts are well described and examples given in both text and figures.
The text is consistent and uses earlier terms and ideas as it builds up a more complete understanding.
This text is designed with modularity in mind. Introductory astronomy courses may be one term, one semester or one year in length. In the instructor’s information, the authors are even kind enough to include several sample syllabi with a variety of lengths and subject emphasis.
With the variety of topics, there are many paths that are explored so when one is finished, the text jumps back into the flow. But it always refers to previous topics where appropriate to do so.
The text looks good and has a clear layout that uses color, distinct consistent labeling of types of sections (such as “Link to Learning”, etc.). The font is a bit on the small side but if that was changed then the text would be even more than 1200 pages so it makes sense to have that tradeoff.
I did not find any grammatical errors.
Where appropriate to do so, the text includes examples from history.
I really like this text and plan on using it soon. As I am the lead professor for astronomy at our school, this means that all sections on all campuses will be using it. I would really like to see a lab activities text made for this.
This book sufficiently covers all of the topics that are common for an introductory Astronomy course; it includes fundamentals (instruments, read more
This book sufficiently covers all of the topics that are common for an introductory Astronomy course; it includes fundamentals (instruments, observations, radiation, basic physics), solar system (minor bodies, planets, and separate chapter exploring rings, moons, craters), stellar evolution (2-chapters dedicated to the Sun, multiple chapters exploring all stages of stellar evolution, and a special focus on analyzing starlight), and galaxies (MWG, distribution of all types). The index in the PDF version is very thorough and has clickable links to pages; index is not found in the web version. A stand-alone glossary does not exist for either PDF or web versions; however, each chapter contains a mini-glossary of terms (Key Terms) that vary in quantity (some chapters only have a few terms listed, others may have a dozen or more). Each chapter does include substantial exercises and activities, along with a healthy list of resources for further exploration (articles, websites, videos).
Overall, the content appears to be accurate and unbiased. Most diagrams, graphics, and images come from NASA. Given that NASA resources are used throughout the entire textbook, it builds confidence that the content has minimal errors.
This is perhaps the most important part of this review, since many traditional publishers struggle to timely update content with recent science and if they do, it results in yearly, new editions that are ultimately costly to students. The content in this textbook is UP-TO-DATE and features recent scientific discoveries (i.e. Pluto flyby, Mars rovers, exoplanets, etc.). OpenStax updates their textbooks yearly and the web version of this textbook will allow for content to be updated easily and frequently, if needed. This textbook contains recent scientific understanding & discoveries throughout all chapters and topics.
The text is written to meet the level of an introductory student with mixed or minimal prereqs in science or math. Text includes embedded links that reference a term or concept from another chapter, this allows students to build connections more efficiently. Chapters include special examples, with clearly written explanation, of equations and derivations that would accommodate students of varied math backgrounds. Exercises, review questions, thought questions are provided in each chapter to challenge students of different levels.
Each chapter contains learning objectives, which establishes the framework for the content of that chapter. The structure of each chapter also includes a concept summary and numerous exercises, activities, review questions, etc..
The textbook is easily and readily divisible into smaller sections, to accommodate varied design of introductory astronomy courses. The web version, especially, allows the division of chapters into topic-specific parts. The modularity of this textbook allows for easy integration into any LMS.
This textbook covers the core/common topics of Astronomy, while also presenting in-depth coverage of specific topics. It is structured and organized for a student to naturally progress and build basic Astronomy knowledge.
PDF version works well across multiple devices; web interface is excellent.
The text contains no grammatical errors that were obvious.
This text is scientifically objective.
The images and diagrams support the content and help learners better understand the concepts. The textbook includes links to interactive resources.
Table of Contents
- 1 Science and the Universe: A Brief Tour
- 2 Observing the Sky: The Birth of Astronomy
- 3 Orbits and Gravity
- 4 Earth, Moon, and Sky
- 5 Radiation and Spectra
- 6 Astronomical Instruments
- 7 Other Worlds: An Introduction to the Solar System
- 8 Earth as a Planet
- 9 Cratered Worlds
- 10 Earthlike Planets: Venus and Mars
- 11 The Giant Planets
- 12 Rings, Moons, and Pluto
- 13 Comets and Asteroids: Debris of the Solar System
- 14 Cosmic Samples and the Origin of the Solar System
- 15 The Sun: A Garden-Variety Star
- 16 The Sun: A Nuclear Powerhouse
- 17 Analyzing Starlight
- 18 The Stars: A Celestial Census
- 19 Celestial Distances
- 20 Between the Stars: Gas and Dust in Space
- 21 The Birth of Stars and the Discovery of Planets outside the Solar System
- 22 Stars from Adolescence to Old Age
- 23 The Death of Stars
- 24 Black Holes and Curved Spacetime
- 25 The Milky Way Galaxy
- 26 Galaxies
- 27 Active Galaxies, Quasars, and Supermassive Black Holes
- 28 The Evolution and Distribution of Galaxies
- 29 The Big Bang
- 30 Life in the Universe
About the Book
Astronomy is designed to meet the scope and sequence requirements of one- or two-semester introductory astronomy courses. The book begins with relevant scientific fundamentals and progresses through an exploration of the solar system, stars, galaxies and cosmology. The Astronomy textbook builds student understanding through the use of relevant analogies, clear and non-technical explanations, and rich illustrations. Mathematics is included in a flexible manner to meet the needs of individual instructors.
About the Contributors
Andrew Fraknoi is Chair of the Astronomy Department at Foothill College and served as the Executive Director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific from 1978–1992. His work with the society included editing Mercury Magazine, Universe in the Classroom, and Astronomy Beat. He’s taught at San Francisco State University, Canada College, and the University of California Extension. He is editor/co-author of The Universe at Your Fingertips 2.0, a collection of teaching activities, and co-author of Solar Science, a book for middle-school teachers. He was co-author of a syndicated newspaper column on astronomy, and appears regularly on local and national radio. With Sidney Wolff, he was founder of Astronomy Education Review. He serves on the Board of Trustees of the SETI Institute and on the Lick Observatory Council. In addition, he has organized six national symposia on teaching introductory astronomy. He received the Klumpke-Roberts Prize of the ASP, the Gemant Award of the American Institute of Physics, and the Faraday Award of the NSTA.
David Morrison is a Senior Scientist at NASA Ames Research Center. He received his PhD in astronomy from Harvard, where he was one of Carl Sagan’s graduate students. He is a founder of the field of astrobiology and is known for research on small bodies in the solar system. He spent 17 years at University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy and the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He was Director of the IRTF at Mauna Kea Observatory. Morrison has held senior NASA positions including Chief of the Ames Space Science Division and founding Director of the Lunar Science Institute. He’s been on science teams for the Voyager, Galileo, and Kepler missions. Morrison received NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals and the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal. He was awarded the AAS Carl Sagan medal and the ASP Klumpke-Roberts prize. Committed to the struggle against pseudoscience, he serves as Contributing Editor of Skeptical Inquirer and on the Advisory Council of the National Center for Science Education.
After receiving her PhD from the UC Berkeley, Dr. Wolff was involved with the astronomical development of Mauna Kea. In 1984, she became the Director of Kitt Peak National Observatory, and was director of National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Most recently, she led the design and development of the 8.4-meter Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Dr. Wolff has published over ninety refereed papers on star formation and stellar atmospheres. She has served as President of the AAS and the ASP. Her recently published book, The Boundless Universe: Astronomy in the New Age of Discovery, won the 2016 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards) Silver Medal in Science.