Monday, September 1, 2008

Book Review: The Mysterious Universe

The Mysterious Universe: Supernovae, Dark Energy, and Black Holes by Ellen Jackson, photos & illustrations by Nic Bishop. (Grades 5-8.)

A supernova is a star that's ending its life in a fantastic explosion. They are so far away that light from a supernova can take billions of years to reach human eyes. Looking at a supernova is like looking back in time, seeing it how it was many, many years ago. Alex Filippenko studies supernovae. He also studies black holes.

Why study supernovae and black holes? Scientists have determined that most of the universe is made up of things called dark matter and dark energy... and no one is sure exactly what those are. The more we study them, the closer we come to knowing what makes up our universe and possibly how it started and what will happen to it in the future.

I found this book really fascinating and the more I think about it, the more fascinating it seems. It's such a hard topic to wrap your head around... The origins of the universe, stars that are billions of light years away, dark matter that no one really knows about... I closed the book and was kind of overwhelmed by things I didn't know. But it's a book that really made me think and it made me curious. And I think those are the best kind of nonfiction books.

With brilliant* photographs and informative sidebars, this is a great entry in the Scientists in the Field series. A bibliography, list of resources for students and teachers, and an index round out the book. Hand this one to budding astronomers. Also of interest are Team Moon and When is a Planet Not a Planet?

I hope everyone (everyone in the States, at least) is enjoying your Labor Day Weekend! It's Non-Fiction Monday and if there's a roundup to be had, it'll be at Anastasia's blog.

*I'm serious when I say brilliant. The first thing I did when I finished reading this book was go on a hunt for supernova desktop wallpaper for my computer. And I still say "Wow!" every time I turn my computer on. No joke. (I found my favorites on National Geographic.)