Professor Emily Levesque’s book is not an academic astronomy treatise. It is not an academic class textbook. It is on the other hand a very engaging and fun read about the ‘observational’ astronomer’s day-to-day life. It almost sounds like an interesting friend’s narration about the behind the scene challenges, discoveries and, often, even tedious waits for that special moment of pure intellectual and personal joy for which the scientist has been thriving. And challenges they are and very cool (and sometimes lovingly nerdy) aha moments. And all in a conversational prose style infused with her infectious love for the field.

But within this conversational and sometimes self-deprecating narration, she touches on many important issues about, for instance, the struggle for women astronomers to claim a seat at the table while making important (and sometimes unrecognized) contributions to the field of astronomy and the way advances in technology are rapidly changing the field of astronomy.

The book’s dust jacket characterizes the book as ‘a love letter to astronomy and as an affirmation of the crucial role humans can and must play in the future of scientific discovery’. It is.  But a collective love letter, as she interviewed over a hundred colleagues and friends, whose stories she braids into her narration of her own experiences in several of the most important observatories. And it is also a bit of a nostalgic farewell to what she calls the observational astronomer who braves the graveyard shift in cold observatories at thousands of feet above sea level managing sleep, hunger, bears and tarantulas and, maybe above all, the tedium and uncertain anticipation of the wait for those minutes of data that will later be parsed and analyzed by colleagues maybe the world over. The Last Stargazers.


The Last Stargazers (The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers), by Emily Levesque

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