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Book Review: “Schaum’s Outline of Astronomy”

January 5, 2013

Schaum’s Outline of Astronomy by Stacey Palen –  If you ever feel like reviewing high school, general college level physics math, explanations of the cosmos, this is the book for you. Nothing too technical, mostly the algebraic formulas you learned pre-university.

Kepler’s laws, escape velocity, why the solar system is composed of terrestrial planets near the Sun, and gaseous planets farther out are all explained at an easy to understand level. Main sequence stars and their properties, and also white dwarfs, red giants outside of the main sequence.

Explanation of the life cycle of a star, and why the end of a star’s life is when it starts to fuse Iron (Fe). Iron being the lightest element that when undergoing fusion results in a negative energy balance. It takes more energy to fuse Iron than what is released from the process. Since we know that all elements in the universe were fused inside the furnace of a star, and we know we have naturally occurring elements far heavier than Iron, the fusion of heavier nuclei does happen inside a star, but at much lower levels than Carbon, Oxygen and all other elements below Iron in the periodic table.

Schaum’s Outlines is a series of books on topics like math and science, and it’s almost like a condense version of these topics. I’d almost compare them to Cliff’s notes from the literary world.

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