Andrew Fraknoi, Foothill College
David Morrison, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Sidney C. Wolff, National Optical Astronomy Observatories (Emeritus)
Copyright Year: 2016
ISBN 13: 9781938168284
Publisher: OpenStax CNX
Conditions of Use
I have used this text for an introductory one-term course on galaxies and cosmology, and am planning to use it for another one-term intro course on the solar system. The text is sufficiently comprehensive to provide ample material for a full-year... read more
I have used this text for an introductory one-term course on galaxies and cosmology, and am planning to use it for another one-term intro course on the solar system. The text is sufficiently comprehensive to provide ample material for a full-year introductory course. The students will come away with a complete overview of the field, and an appreciation for both the history and the most important recent discoveries in astronomy. Every instructor is different, so it's not surprising that I found some missing topics of lesser importance, that I personally consider valuable. For example, the principles behind the sundial could have been used to explain the celestial sphere, but the text only mentions it in passing. I also like to spend more time discussing the tides, although I think the short section in the text does a good job given how short it is. In the chapter on telescopes, I would have liked a mention polar tracking without which no fancy telescope design would work at all. This will also remind readers how important the rotation of the Earth is in observational astronomy. In cosmology, there is obviously a huge amount of material that exists in the popular literature (Hawking, Thorne, and others), and the textbook offers a sparse selection by comparison. However, it's an adequate balance overall.
There are some small inaccuracies that could lead to confusion. In section 3.3, Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation as stated applies to spherically symmetric objects or points, but not to mass distributions of arbitrary shape - except in the far field. To avoid later confusion, I would have explained that the gravitational force of an arbitrary object is the sum of the attractions from all its parts, keeping track of the directions. In the same section, Newton's modification of Kepler's Third Law is discussed, and a formula is stated relating the period to a quantity "a". Here there is an omission that will make it impossible for the student to understand what's really going on. In the case of arbitrary masses to which the formula is supposed to apply, the definition of "a" in terms of the relative coordinate is essential because neither object can be assumed to be fixed. Without this information, there is no way for the student to actually make quantitative use of this formula, except in the special case covered in the example: that of an immovable center. But for that special case, it would not have been necessary to introduce two new variables M1 and M2 for the masses of both objects. In fact, the example immediately sets M1=1. To make the description more accurate, I'd replace M1=1 from the start so that "a" can retain its earlier definition. There is an application of the more general case in the context of binary stars later in the text, but no formulas are referenced at that point. In section 3.5, the text states "the landed payload must include enough propulsive power...". What it should say instead is "the landed payload must include enough energy" - you can't store power, only energy! In chapter 5, it should be pointed out that not all waves are repeating phenomena (as the text states). What’s discussed in the text are harmonic waves. Pulses are also waves, but need not repeat.
The book is very up-to-date, as far as I can tell. This is actually one of the main advantages I see compared to other texts. Perhaps the book shows its age just a tiny bit in one statement at the end of chapter 3: Calculating orbits in N body problems of moderate size no longer requires large computers. Even tablets can do it. The book says that "calculating the gravitational interaction of more than two objects is complicated and requires large computers". On large computers, people nowadays solve N-body problems for very large N.
The authors clearly worked hard to avoid unnecessary jargon. At some point they even mention how they debated omitting the "magnitude" classification of stars because it's so cryptic. Then they do include that concept after all, but fortunately don't use it much after that. The text has many nice figures that help immensely because astronomy is a very visual subject. One place where I thought an additional figure was needed is chapter 4.1, explaining the coordinates on the celestial sphere. In figure 5.8, there is a lot of information that may be difficult for the student to absorb. For that reason, I found the labels somewhat wanting. First of all the label "K" for Kelvin isn't defined until two pages later. Second, the "Intensity" axis should be called spectral intensity because it’s intensity per unit wavelength. Intensity is also not just power, but power per unit area. Instead of “arbitrary units”, one could write actual units so the student can connect them to the definitions in the text. Most readers will be confused by “arb. units” because it involves the additional step of introducing a reference irradiance (which experts take for granted). Since astronomy is a very visual science, it’s useful that a curated list of video and image links is provided at the end of each chapter.
In the context of Kepler's Laws, conic Sections are introduced in general in fig. 3.3, but the significance of parabola and hyperbola is not mentioned. This should be done at least by the time we reach Newton’s theory. One of the biggest issues I had was that the concept of energy is used quite a lot without ever being properly explained or defined. Energy is used a lot especially in the chapter on radiation and spectra. Without a prior definition, students may end up viewing energy as synonymous with photon number, but the connection to other forms of energy remains vague. Given that energy is mentioned in the context of rocket launches much earlier, it would have made sense to properly define kinetic energy there. That’s really the “gold standard” for energy, and all other forms can be related to it, thereby providing a more unified view. Kinetic energy is used without definition in 15.2. To explain the gravitational constant G, one should also mention Cavendish’s torsion balance experiment. Otherwise there’s a logical gap in figuring out the acceleration g on Earth, because you first have to know the mass of the Earth itself. And obviously Newton didn't know that quantity when he first proved the inverse-square law (Newton wasn't the first to postulate this famous law). In the discussion of "wave-like characteristics of light," interference should be mentioned, instead of being left until the next chapter (6). Interference is how the wave nature of light was experimentally demonstrated.
The text can't be completely modular because the topics necessarily build on each other to a certain extent. But that's not a shortcoming in a science text. It's to be desired, in order to tell a coherent story. I've used the text in a self-contained way to teach mainly galaxies and cosmology. With the addition of chapters 1-3 and 5, 6, I felt the text covered everything I needed. These early chapters are probably always good to include in any astronomy introduction that aims to be self-contained. The structure of each chapter adheres to a consistent pattern, and the lengths of the sections are reasonably well-balanced. This makes it quite convenient to assign readings based on sections because you can be confident that the number of pages will be approximately the same for each section.
The order in which the topics are presented follows a rather standard list. There are only two minor issues I noticed: In chapter 8, the atmosphere (section 8.3) may be better to discuss first because it allows us to define pressure. Pressure is used in section 8.1 (on the solid Earth) without explanation, so that section should appear after talking about the atmosphere. The concept of "center of mass" is discussed in chapter 18, but it really belongs in chapter 3, as it is crucial in Newton's treatment of Kepler's laws.
The text is available as PDF, as an app, and online as fully linked HTML. The latter is very convenient because it allows the instructor to post links to individual sections directly, without looking up page numbers. The electronic formats are free of technical issues, and the searchability they provide is of great practical use. Images are of high quality, and the typesetting is professional-looking.
There are no grammatical issues that I was able to identify.
The text contains several historical excursions in which the role of women in astronomy is explicitly pointed out. There are also several references to the achievements of Chinese astronomers, in addition to the traditional references to the ancient Greeks. This is a level of diversity that seems appropriate in the context of a text whose main objective is to tell a coherent story of the universe, not necessarily paint a complete picture of all the relevant historical developments.
I'm definitely going to use this text again.
This textbook is appropriately comprehensive for an introductory astronomy class. Content is covered at a breadth typical of other intro astronomy textbooks. The index is high-quality (with links back to specific sections). Instead of an overall... read more
This textbook is appropriately comprehensive for an introductory astronomy class. Content is covered at a breadth typical of other intro astronomy textbooks. The index is high-quality (with links back to specific sections). Instead of an overall glossary, key terms are listed within each chapter. Some content is covered in less depth or detail, and this has the benefit of keeping the focus on the big picture. Some topics (cosmic rays, the difference between population I and II stars, gamma ray bursts, the anthropic principle) are not covered in some texts yet are topics that my own students have broached in term papers and discussions - so I am glad to see them here.
Errata are openly documented and are on a transparent timetable, with details given for errata not corrected. These are even interesting to read through, as some of them are pedagogical in nature and provide instructors designing their courses with food for thought.
The errata mechanism ensures that factual errors arising from new and changing science can be easily updated, on a regular timetable, guaranteeing that the textbook can remain up-to-date so long as its readers are diligent.
The writing is clear and concise, and explains technical terms using visually evocative language. Abstract ideas are grounded with concrete examples. The clarity could be improved by including additional illustrations.
Often when referencing key terminology, the book references and links to the original discussion of the term. Each chapter follows a consistent framework that lends itself to usability. The “Thinking Ahead” section for each chapter prompts students to consider key questions and connect to prior knowledge. The Learning Outcomes are clearly enumerated at the start of each section. The Key Terms and Summary at the end of each chapter are invaluable for study purposes, while the “Further Exploration” resources would be helpful for external reading assignments related to each chapter. Connections to real life situations are drawn in the Links to Learning, Feature Boxes, and Collaborative Group Activities at the end of each chapter.
The modularity is excellent. Not only can this course be broken into various semester-long units, but the authors provide sample syllabi for doing so. The introductory chapter orients the reader to all topics coming up in the book (including an overview of the universe and of matter). This overview constitutes a helpful introduction for each class in a sequence if they are taken separately or out of order (as is allowed in my college). Appendices on scientific notation and SI units are introduced early, including practice examples for students who may need them.
In general, the book follows the typical sequence: solar system, then stars, and finally galaxies / cosmology. Big-picture ideas in astronomy are highlighted by the organizational approach of the chapters. For instance, rather than a chapter for each planet (a common choice), this text groups them in a way consistent with the application of comparative planetology. In addition, certain chapters that are often covered separately and in detail are combined and simplified in this book (for instance: radiation and spectroscopy, early universe and cosmology). This is an appropriate approach for introductory students and avoids cognitive overload.
Navigation is simple. I appreciate the easy-to-use highlighting and notes feature. Areas for improvement include: - Labels for highlight colors (so students can establish and keep track of an individualized scheme). - Links back to the relevant text section beginning from the reader’s highlights and notes (so they can jump back to the highlight in context). - A “back” button of some sort; e.g. to easily help students who click on a link to a different section to return to where they started from (rather than the added cognitive load of finding the proper section from the Table of Contents again). - A bookmark feature. - A list of the titles of all focus boxes.
I didn’t notice any obvious grammatical errors.
The “Thinking Ahead” section in Chapter 2 warms students up to the idea of how to convince a Flat Earther that Earth is round. The text promises to equip students with observational data and principled logic to analyze such claims. This is then applied to astrology later in the chapter. This approach is consistent with respect for students from diverse religious backgrounds, as the emphasis is on the veracity of specific claims. The book acknowledges the focus in Western civilization on ideas from Greek and Roman cultures, and includes a short section about ancient astronomy around the world. An instructor could expand on this idea in an assignment by using the “Astronomy of Many Cultures” resource in the Resource Hub. In section 4.5, the book connects the 7-day week of the Western world to the 7 “wanderers” visible to the naked eye and prompts cultural reflection by asking whether we may have “Eight Days a Week” if one more planet were visible.
I appreciate the big-picture and conceptual focus focus of this book, but I think I'd need to take it for a spin in my classroom before I'd know for sure if I'd miss the loss in detail and depth in this book compared to my current text. The Powerpoint slides, test bank, and end-of-chapter questions provide a good starting point for building curriculum around this book. The thing I would miss most if I were to adopt this book would be online tutorial-type homework, especially visual tutorials and interactive questions. However, this can also be seen as an opportunity for the open pedagogy community to develop and share resources that meet our individual needs! The OpenStax Astronomy Group already curates a number of helpful materials with up-to-date contributions. I look forward to watching it grow and perhaps contributing!
Overall the textbook is at a very good level for my Elementary Astronomy class, which is a general education requirement course series. Brief Astronomy videos on the student resources are short and will be helpful to link with the lectures to make... read more
Overall the textbook is at a very good level for my Elementary Astronomy class, which is a general education requirement course series. Brief Astronomy videos on the student resources are short and will be helpful to link with the lectures to make it interactive and informative. I am going to adapt to this textbook in my future semesters.
I didn't notice any inaccurate statements. However, I have not used the textbook in full potential.
It is not easy to keep Astronomy textbooks up to date, with this textbook I can easily make comments on the text at the time I assigned it to studnts, which will allow me to make edits on the textbook to visible to studnts.
The textbook contains fewer details, most suitable for an introductory astronomy course.
The textbook is reasonable for consistency in using terms. However, I noticed that there is no consideration of the vector quality of the terms. For example, when the author introduces the equation for Universational gravitational law, he should have used the magnitude of the force. In many textbooks, there is no consideration given to vector quality of terms, and then studnts will get confused when the direction introduces.
Most textbooks come with long unnecessary text which distracts the readers. This textbook does not contain lengthy explanations, which will keep the readers focused. This quality will make it easy to assign reading assignments weekly.
The textbook uses clear text to explain the topics, where I can quickly adapt to the language. I would prefer a different text font and a variety of font to develop the overall textbooks' appearance.
On the online version, it is straightforward to navigate from topic to topic. The pictures in many places are in detail, and also those are linked nicely with the text and embedded aligned with the content.
The language is easy to follow, and there are no grammar errors detected so far. Once I adapted to the textbook, I will able to comment on this properly.
The textbook provides online links to the sky charts and night sky events, which can adapt to the region of the user. Also, the author is very clear about explaining the sky observations in chapter 2.
To improve the overall quality, I would recommend adding a textbook cover, change the text font, and add more information about space probes that currently in operation.
This astronomy textbook includes content on all of the broad topics one could wish to teach in a general education astronomy course. This allows instructors to design multiple courses using a single textbook, for example one course could focus on... read more
This astronomy textbook includes content on all of the broad topics one could wish to teach in a general education astronomy course. This allows instructors to design multiple courses using a single textbook, for example one course could focus on solar system science whereas another could focus on stars. I would, however, like to see a more in depth take on the state of exoplanet science given the gains made with Kepler data and the future gains to be had from TESS data.
This textbook is updated frequently enough such that content stays error-free. In addition, it uses appropriate language to accurately communicate scientific and mathematical ideas to a general student audience.
The textbook is updated frequently enough such that the newest discoveries may be included on the online version of the text. The PDF and print versions also stay relatively up to date. Most of the text focuses on the aspects of astronomy that are well-established and unlikely to change appreciably in the near future, but it does take the time to point out those areas that are still in development and to describe said developments.
The text uses clear language and makes clever analogies to place difficult concepts into context for students with many figures included to enhance understanding. Some of the figures could use further explanations or redesigns. For example, students have commented that they found the figures related to Kepler’s laws to be more difficult to grasp. In addition, many of my students struggle with other aspects of Chapter 3, e.g. Newton’s laws and conservation of angular momentum. Finally, my students do cite the worked examples as a good resource for learning how to use equations presented in the text.
The text is always careful to use the same terminology across chapters and takes the time to reference points at which terms have been used previously or will be used again in a later chapter. In addition, the text is consistent in its use of variables for equations. For example, F is consistently used for force (or flux) in equations.
The text can be broken up in multiple ways to allow for a variety of astronomy courses to be taught with a single resource. It is also always careful to briefly describe previous concepts, so students are not forced to read chapters that an instructor has skipped in order to understand the current content, but a reference to previous material is included for the curious student. In addition, each of the chapters and subsections are named appropriately so that the comprehensive indexing is easy to follow. Finally, OpenStax includes instruction materials to help instructors design a variety of astronomy courses with this textbook. For example, I have used this textbook to teach both a solar system science course and a course focused on stars, and I plan to use it again to design a course focused on galaxies and cosmology.
Each chapter follows naturally from the previous chapter, but not such that one must read all of the previous chapters to understand the current chapter. In addition, each section includes a brief list of reading goals to help guide students in their learning and instructors in course design.
The text includes ample outside resources that are easy to interface with, but a few of the source hyperlinks are beginning to lead to webpages that no longer exist or they lead to Flash simulations that will be obsolete in December 2020. Occasionally, I find page breaks to be jarring, for example if a large figure is present there might be a lot of white space between one page and the next. My students have commented that the text is easy to follow and that they like the sectioning, stating that the text was broken up well into smaller components.
I have yet to find any grammatical errors in the text.
The text is not offensive, even when it is presenting views with which some astronomy students may disagree. For example, a few of my students begin the semester as strong believers in astrology and may not agree with the presentation of the topic within this textbook. In text examples and discussion questions include names from multiple groups and some even focus on the potential cultural significance of a topic. A few of my students have asked for information about astronomy within non-Western cultures, but the text takes the time to include contributions from astronomers from minority groups whenever possible.
This text is a fantastic resource and I think myself fortunate to have been introduced to it early in my astronomy instructional career.
The book Astronomy is very comprehensive. It has 30 chapters and almost 1200 pages. This voluminous book covers all the areas of introductory Astronomy in detail and it is usually taught in most universities and colleges over two semesters. The... read more
The book Astronomy is very comprehensive. It has 30 chapters and almost 1200 pages. This voluminous book covers all the areas of introductory Astronomy in detail and it is usually taught in most universities and colleges over two semesters. The first fourteen chapters cover information about general Astronomy, Night Sky, and Solar System and rest of the chapters cover stars, galaxies and the Universe. The last chapter is about life in the Universe and astrobiology. The book not only covers information about the larger scale of universe, but also dives deep in to the smaller scale. At the end of the book there is a comprehensive list of important websites and apps with active links.
The content presented in the book is accurate and error-free. The authors seemed to be unbiased for the most part, for example, authors have covered both sides in the discussion about Astronomy and Astrology and left it to the readers to decide for themselves.
This book was written in 2016 and I am doing this review in the beginning of 2020. The book can still be easily used in the classroom as the content in the book is mostly up-to-date. For example, it has information about Pluto from New Horizons exploration, the discovery of gravitational waves from LIGO, and Comet C-G from the Rosetta Mission. There is a table in the appendices that lists total solar and lunar eclipses until year 2029. Some information needs to be updated though such as information about the 2017 eclipse that has already happened and the largest radio telescope (it is not Arecibo telescope that is the largest anymore). In addition, the new discoveries are being made every year with the advent of more powerful instruments and faster computers. I am pretty sure the book will need a revision in a couple of years to make it more relevant then.
For the most part the book is written clearly. There are analogies, diagrams, images, tables, and charts to clearly explain the concepts. The length of each article is about the right size, not too long or too short. Most of the Tables in the book are simple usually with 2 to 3 columns that are easy to understand for the students. There are some places in the book that could be confusing for students, but those are only minor issues. For example, Chapter 9 is titled as Cratered Worlds and it covers information mainly about Mercury and Moon. It gives the impression that Mercury and Moon are the only objects in our Solar System that have craters.
The book has consistent nomenclature and framework throughout. Every chapter starts with learning outcomes, and ends with summary, key terms, and list of articles for further reading.
Chapters are short with headings and subheadings for topics and appear to be standing alone and easy to customize. For example, the information about the giant planets is covered in Chapter 11 and authors made the chapter short by covering the rings and moons of these planets in the next chapter. As another example, celestial distances techniques are covered in a separate chapter (Chapter 19). Most of the other textbooks spread the description of these techniques over multiple chapters. In addition, math examples are shown in separate sections throughout. So math can be excluded when not needed.
The book is organized just as any other traditional text book on Astronomy. The book provides an outward journey, starting from Earth to other parts of the Solar System, then to stars, galaxies and the entire universe.
Links to the images, chapter articles, and other websites seem to be working even though the book was written more than 3 years back. The images are clear, but it would have been better if we can hover over to see them larger. The font of captions of images is too small, but we can use the zoom option in the online version. It would be harder to read the captions in the printed version.
I did not find any serious grammatical errors.
Overall, the book is not insensitive in anyway. It clearly mentions the contributions and challenges of women astronomers at some places such as Anne Cannon’s, but there are more venues where it can be improved. For example, there is no mention of Carolina Shoemaker who co-discovered the comet that collided with Jupiter. There could be some mention of challenges of Jocelyn Bell, the discoverer of pulsars, too. In the ancient Astronomy chapter, the book goes back to the time of only Greeks and Babylonians. As with most Astronomy text books, there is no mention of Indian and Chinese Astronomy which are much older and highly evolved.
In nutshell, this is an excellent text book. All three major authors of the book are highly qualified and award winners in the field of Astronomy education. Their enthusiasm for Astronomy reflects very well in this book. I am considering adopting this book for intro courses that I teach online to non-science majors. In the appendix section, the book also includes information for students on topics like studying for an introductory Astronomy class. Most importantly, the online version of the text book is free for students and printed version is not very expensive. The book has Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY) license. So we can distribute, remix, and build upon the content, as long as we provide proper attribution. Additionally, text book accessories like power points and answers to review questions are also available upon request from OpenStax. I have not gone through them yet but I am glad to know about their availability.
The text covers all topics and concepts in Introductory Astronomy well. It is nicely separated into 30 chapters which contain topics from "what is astronomy" to astrobiology. read more
The text covers all topics and concepts in Introductory Astronomy well. It is nicely separated into 30 chapters which contain topics from "what is astronomy" to astrobiology.
The text covers the most up-to-date information in astronomy. There are no updates on the blackhole but this will likely be included in the new edition.
The chapters are organized in a logical format. The organization allows an instructor of a one-semester course to select relevant chapters for the course without compromising the heart of the course.
The authors of the text were very clear throughout the text by: 1) providing clear learning outcomes, 2) short but informative chapters on the topic 3) links to animations or images where appropriate
The text uses the same terminology throughout and is consistent. The learning outcomes at the beginning of the chapters establish the organization of the chapter and are followed.
Short chapters and subchapters are well organized and easy to consume especially for a 5-week hybrid course.
The chapters are organized beginning with the definition of astronomy, contents of the universe, to life in the universe. Useful study tools and supplemental resources are located at the end of the text.
I did not experience any problems with the navigation of the links to chapters, illustrations or animations.
Excellent writing and very clear to the reader.
I don't believe this review category is relevant for this text, however, I did not find any culturally irrelevant material.
An exceptional book that I have decided to adopt and use immediately. Comparable with any traditional Astronomy text for an introductory course.
The book covers all the topics I would expect a two semester introductory astronomy course to cover. This book could be used to teach both a Solar System Astronomy course, or a Stars & Galaxies course. In addition, someone could simply use... read more
The book covers all the topics I would expect a two semester introductory astronomy course to cover. This book could be used to teach both a Solar System Astronomy course, or a Stars & Galaxies course. In addition, someone could simply use this book and cherry-pick topics for those universities that teach a survey course in astronomy (covering both solar system and stars/galaxies/cosmology) over a single semester. The book has a detailed appendix, and at the end of every chapter is a list of definitions pertinent to the chapter. The book consistently links to other topics in the book, as a way to let the reader go back and forth between topics in order to understand new material by reviewing the old material. The table of contents is detailed, and the section title make is clear what is the focus of the section. Finally, each section has a list of learning objectives, so the student and the teacher know what should be gained as a result of reading over a given section.
There are no biases that I can see. In general, I find astronomy to be based on facts, and therefore hard to inject bias. As with any astronomy course, there will be those who read the book who might object to a particular topic on religious grounds, but that is impossible to avoid and should not be a consideration when writing a book. The authors do a good job of not pandering to this demographic. I do disagree with what the authors define as Newton's 2nd Law on page 77. I think the authors should state that acceleration is directly proportional to force and inversely proportional to mass. However, the authors do describe the 2nd law in those terms later on, but I think they oversimplify the 2nd Law in the original definition. I also appreciate the strong way the authors speak of the greenhouse effect, global warming, and its root cause by humans.
Certain sections of this book will need to be revised as new telescopic data is obtained and discoveries made. That being said, every book has this issue. There is a reference to an eclipse of August 21st, 2017, that has already happened but is talked about in the future tense. I think the authors might consider changing the section to include images from this eclipse, and focus on the future U.S. eclipse in 2024. However, most of the book's content describing gravity, light, and other fundamental topics will not require consistent maintenance and are outlined well.
The format of the book is to describe astronomy in largely conceptual terms, providing mathematical examples where prudent, but not emphasizing the math. If the reader decided to ignore the mathematical examples and focused on the descriptions of why the topics are important, the reader will still get a lot out of the book. The appendix gives a series of tutorials on important mathematical principles used in the text, and several links to outside sources are useful in understanding the math jargon used. There is a section on gravity where the Moon's acceleration around the Earth is compared to the acceleration on the surface of the Earth, and a number for the acceleration of the Moon is stated as known, without context. I would suggest stating a series of facts about the Moon that tell the reader how someone in the 17th century already knew the centripetal acceleration of the Moon due to the Earth (parallax for Moon distance, velocity based on circumference and time to go through zodiac, etc.) However, I would say that largely the book does an excellent job in presenting information in a clear way, with images, figures, tables, and written descriptions that make it easy to follow.
I would prefer to see the chapter on the Moon covered before gravity and the discussion on the phases of Venus. At the same time, the book is consistently linked to other topics in the book so the user can go back and forth between chapters and content with ease. In addition, an instructor can simply say "read chapter 4" and then the next week say "read chapter 3", so there is no need to follow exactly the order of topics followed by the book. Overall, the book is consistent in nomenclature and laid out in the same style for every chapter.
The book does an excellent job of breaking the material up into many sub-sections, and linking each subsection in the text to other subsections when necessary. To me, this is one of the primary strengths of the book and an e-book in general, and the authors use this tool very well. It makes it easy to tell a student what to read, and to sculpt what I would want to cover as opposed to rigidly following the order of topics outlined in the book.
Outside of the potential of moving the discussion of the Moon to an earlier point of the book, I think the book is clear and organized exceptionally well. There is a table I would suggest modifying. Table 3.2 involves the listing of the semi-major axis and period of each planet. I would suggest two other columns. One for the square of the period, and one for the cube of the axis, so the reader can clearly see the relationship between the two as outlined in Kepler's 3rd Law.
Images and figures were very well rendered and easy to read, along with being easy to zoom in and see through the computer. The only item I would mention here as criticism is that when I tried to open some of the video or animation links, there were issues with trying to play a flash animation, but that may be unavoidable.
I did not see any grammatical errors.
Astronomy is a science that is largely based in Ancient Greek references, and has largely been dominated by caucasian men. There are places in the book where some of the modern debates that cause intense discussions can be triggered, such as global warming and the perceived conflict between religion and science. However, I think the book does a good job of giving the scientific side of things, and a classroom instructor can use these topics to have a meaningful class discussion. The book discusses Anne Cannon and her trials as a result of her being a woman of science in the 19th and early 20th century. I think it would be good for the book to link to Dava Sobel's "The Glass Universe" for more content on the issues that faced many women during this time period. The book also mentions, in its description of Anne Cannon, that "women were exploited and undervalued in many fields. This is a legacy from which our society is just beginning to emerge". I am not sure this is a universally shared statement. It is better than the 19th century, but the recent movements such as #metoo are exposing the amount that women still have to overcome to be seen as equals. The section on Islamic and Chinese contributions is similar to many textbooks in style and content. Overall, I think the book is not offensive or insensitive, but if they were looking to expand the section on the Harvard computers, there is an opportunity to do so.
Overall I think this book is an excellent Open Textbook, and easily equivalent to what I am using in the classroom now. I particularly like the large pool of questions at the end of each chapter, the figures, videos, tutorials, etc. This book, combined with a classroom discussion that emphasizes concepts, would make an excellent intro. to astronomy book at the university level. I plan to use this book myself in the Fall of 2018. I did have some trouble with links which go to an external page. If I look at the book as a PDF on a browser, many hyperlinks will not open in another window, but instead take me off of the book and to the weblink. When I think hit the back button, the book has to reload. This is minor, as I can either download the PDF, and not open it up using a browser, or I can click on the link while holding down the CTRL button, and the link opens in another window. This and the other criticisms mentioned above are all minor, however, and meant for constructive feedback. The book, in my view, is a great resource.
Astronomy as far as introductory astronomy texts are concerned is an enormous text that does an admirable job of including almost all the content you could possibly want students to consume over the course of either a one or two semester... read more
Astronomy as far as introductory astronomy texts are concerned is an enormous text that does an admirable job of including almost all the content you could possibly want students to consume over the course of either a one or two semester introductory astronomy course. In point of fact, the bigger problem in terms of the instructor is coming up with a decent selection of readings that are manageable for students in shorter classes.
I have not found any glaring errors reading through the text. The introductory content appears to be at the level and type that one would expect from high-quality astronomy texts.
The content is up-to-date, but I would like to see more connections to material outside of the text. Students that chose to read the text on-line would benefit from more direct links to the sources of data and the main internet resources that can be used in an introductory astronomy text. End of the chapter links can serve in part to help with this, but lists of links are hardly the most dynamic way to encourage people to click through. Appendix M, for example, is the kind of content I would like to see reflected more throughout the text if possible. Where appropriate the content is up-to-date as far as I can tell.
The text is a bit formal and dry as far as content is concerned, This isn't necessarily problematic, but it does make some students have a hard time reading in a careful or extensive fashion. I'll give an example: "We measure the proper motion of a star in arcseconds (1/3600 of a degree) per year. That is, the measurement of proper motion tells us only by how much of an angle a star has changed its position on the celestial sphere. If two stars at different distances are moving at the same velocity perpendicular to our line of sight, the closer one will show a larger shift in its position on the celestial sphere in a year’s time. As an analogy, imagine you are standing at the side of a freeway. Cars will appear to whiz past you. If you then watch the traffic from a vantage point half a mile away, the cars will move much more slowly across your field of vision. In order to convert this angular motion to a velocity, we need to know how far away the star is." This could benefit from some editing. There are a lot of parenthetical connectors ("that is", "so", "in order to") that serve to make the text less accessible and more time is spent on the analogy than is spent on the actual effect. Proper motion is a subject that is extremely important to astronomy these days in terms of datasets, but this fact seems to be skipped in favor of imagining cars driving on a freeway. I would recommend removing a lot of the text in favor of more simple, declarative sentences and use analogies only when absolutely necessary. Students should be able to use the book as a reference without having to eliminate a lot of prose that is being used to explain ideas that may or may not need explaining depending on who the student is.
The book uses the standard development and framework that most introductory astronomy texts would require. I did not notice problems.
I think this is an area where the text can be improved. As a monstrous text, it would be nicer if it could be made more clear what material was supplemental and what was essential. The proposed short course lists assume that chapter-by-chapter assignments are the best form of modularity, but I would argue that for those of us who like to spend more time on relativity, for example, or for those who would like to start with cosmology, the text is not well-suited to reorganization along those lines. Simplifying the text and making sections more easily stand-alone, I believe, would greatly improve the work.
I think the text takes a decent (albeit traditional) tack of organizing the normal course. This is perfectly acceptable.
I would argue that the images the text use could be improved. The sizes of the images are small and there are not options to make them larger in the electronic format. Astronomy is very visual, and so this sort of lack of large images is concerning to me, and at the least links could be made to external sources. However, the rest of the interface seems well made.
I think the grammar is okay, if a bit strange because it is at once colloquial as well as in-depth. A style editor would help, I would argue, but the grammar itself seems fine.
I would like the text to contain more references to current astronomy work/issues. There is a lot of work being done to look at how astronomy can be made more inclusive and while the standard stories that are written are included about this (esp. with regards to women in astronomy), a lot more can be done. Profiling current active astronomers, for example, might help make the book more relevant. Including interviews of such people might be helpful as well.
Overall, this is a good text. It may not be as dynamic or as exciting as other texts on astronomy, but it is a good start as a reference work (although perhaps a paring down to simpler points might be advisable if one is interested in using it just as a reference).
From ancient astronomy to the recent discovery of gravitational waves this text presents an overview of astronomy from prehistory to present. read more
From ancient astronomy to the recent discovery of gravitational waves this text presents an overview of astronomy from prehistory to present.
The textbook is accurate and factual.
The text is up to date, but not written with such a modern slant that it will appear dated in the near future.
The figures and text are crystal clear. The text is very well formatted, of high resolution and easy on the eyes. Jargon/technical terms are in bold face in the text, with a glossary at the end of each chapter. The book explains complex ideas in clear prose.
From formatting to prose to worked numerical examples the text follows a logical progression which makes the content easily accessable to the reader.
The chapter divisions are logical and allow for chapters to be skipped as time dictates, or the book to be broken up for a two semester course.
The chapters follow a logical progression.
The text and figures are of remarkably high resolution. It appears to be professionally typeset.
No grammatical errors found.
The text strives to discuss the role of people of different backgrounds in astronomy. There are quite a few pictures of historical astronomers (e.g. Brahe, Kepler) but fewer of more modern astronomers. It would be nice to have modern pictures representing a variety of races, genders, and ethnicities, e.g. a picture of Jocelyn Bell.
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,... 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.
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... 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 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... 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!
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... 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.
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... 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 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... 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.