Seven years before Richard Preston wrote about horrifying viruses in The Hot Zone, he turned his attention to the cosmos. In First Light, he demonstrates his gift for creating an exciting and absorbing narrative around a complex scientific subject--in this case the efforts by astronomers at the Palomar Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains of California to peer to the farthest edges of space through the Hale Telescope, attempting to solve the riddle of the creation of the universe.
Richard Preston's name became a household word with The Hot Zone, which sold nearly 800,000 copies in hardcover, was on The New York Times's bestseller list for 42 weeks, and was the subject of countless magazine and newspaper articles. Preston has become a sought-after commentator on popular science subjects.
For this hardcover reprint of what has been called "the best popular account of astronomy in action," (Kirkus Reviews) he has revised the text and written a new introduction.
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"There is a saying among astronomers that five billion people concern themselves with the surface of the Earth, and ten thousand with everything else," writes Richard Preston, best-selling author of The Hot Zone. And if you think these professional stargazers spend most of their time serenely peering into the night sky, guess again. Today's astronomers are world-class gadgeteers who scurry about giant (and often frigid) observatories tinkering with the mechanical and electronic tools of their trade. In First Light, they tangle with the Hale Telescope, one of the world's oldest and largest. This beautifully written book is highly recommended for anybody interested in astronomy.From the Publisher:
"Remarkably readable and illuminating....Beautifully depicts astronomers' deepened understanding of earth as the merest speck in time and space."
--The New York Times Book Review
"This is Preston's best book, and it is the best book ever written about astronomers and the things they do. The science is accurate, the portraits of the human characters are true to life, and the story whizzes along like a ride on a roller-coaster."
"Preston is a master storyteller, pure and simple. When he turns his talents to science writing, the result is spellbinding. First Light gives a novelist's feeling for the scientific enterprise and its characters."
"I love First Light more than any book of its kind. It's the only book I've ever studied to learn what makes it so hypnotically absorbing. I've not yet unlocked its secrets, but whatever Richard Preston does to breathe life into his world of astronomers and their mountaintop machinery, his gifts transcend mere talent."
"First Light was Richard Preston's bright first light, now renewed. All the intelligence and brio that would blaze from The Hot Zone was there all along. Read First Light--you'll see stars!"
"First Light is first of all a love letter to the Palomar Observatory and to a handful of astronomers and civilians who are using it to plumb a few of the details of our situation here in the universe. It is one of the finest accounts of scientists at work that I have read. Most writers say they want their books to read like a novel, but Preston actually delivers."
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