This is a book about astronomy, the study of the Sun, Moon, planets, stars, galaxies and other objects found in the sky. It is not a book about astronauts, rockets, and space travel, although these interesting topics are occasionally mentioned. Nor is it a book about astrology and horoscopes, written to collect money for its entertainment value. This book is a crash course in basic astronomy, written for those who have never found the opportunity to learn any astronomy before now – especially elementary and middle school teachers, and parents of children in these grades. The book is intended as a source of information on the basic astronomical topics that are part of a strong science curriculum. Astronomy is the perfect introductory science: it is interesting, it is fun, and it doesn't get your hands dirty.
Why should anyone study astronomy? What practical use is it to us? Many people realize that astronomy is the basis for such activities as time-keeping, navigation, and picking out constellations while camping under the stars. But astronomy is important for another reason: it fascinates people – even those who know very little about it. Children especially, are eager to learn about planets and stars, worlds much different from their own, which give their imaginations a flying start. They are amazed by the huge numbers, distances, and sizes that are encountered with every new topic. And they like being able to make predictions of moon phases, eclipses, and other events in the sky – predictions that can then be verified by observations. In a school setting, astronomy is a natural cross-curricular topic; it develops and exercises mathematical and scientific thinking processes and stimulates the imagination. Integrating curriculum strands is easy with astronomy, as it provides topics for learning activities in language arts, social studies, math, and science.
The book presents a simplified view of astronomy. Equations have been minimized, numbers have been rounded, and the black-and-white diagrams can be easily reproduced on a chalkboard – which is where most of them originated. (Nice color images of planets, moons, and such do not appear here, as they can easily be found on the web.) Terms are explained in the chapters, as needed, and also collected in the glossary at the end of the book. Most of the topics are reasonably tame: they include sunrise and sunset, shadows and seasons, moon phases, planets, and such. Discussions of black holes, pulsars, quasars, supernovae, and other exotic objects are a bit premature at this level and will be omitted. Throughout most of the book we will stay fairly close to home; let us define what that means.
The book in numbers
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