Eclipse Journeys to the dark side of the moon

F. E. Close

Book - 2017

On August 21st, over one hundred million people will gather across the USA to witness the most-watched total solar eclipse in history. Eclipse: Journeys to the Dark Side of the Moon, by popular science author Frank Close, describes the spellbinding allure of this beautiful natural phenomenon. The book explains why eclipses happen, reveals their role in history, literature and myth, and introduces us to eclipse chasers, who travel with ecstatic fervor to some of the most inaccessible places on the globe. The book also includes the author's quest to solve a 3000-year-old mystery: how did the moon move backward during a total solar eclipse, as claimed in the Book of Joshua? Eclipse is also the story of how a teacher inspired the author, a...ged eight, to pursue a career in science and a love affair with eclipses that has taken him to a war zone in the Western Sahara, the South Pacific, and the African bush. The tale comes full circle with another eight-year old boy - the author's grandson - at the 2017 great American eclipse. Readers of all ages will be drawn to this inspirational chronicle of the mesmerizing experience of total solar eclipse.

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New York, NY : Oxford University Press 2017.
Main Author
F. E. Close (author)
First ediiton
Item Description
Includes index.
Physical Description
xii, 219 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps (some color) ; 21 cm
  • Prologue: Dark Amid the Blaze of Noon
  • 1. Peterborough 30 June 1954
  • 2. Waiting for Godot
  • 3. Preparation
  • 4. Cornwall: 11 August 1999
  • 5. June 21st is Midwinter's Day
  • 6. 'Who's Arranged this Eclipse?'
  • 7. Earthshine in the Sahara: Libya 2006
  • 8. The Most Remote Eclipses
  • 9. Atlantic Adventure
  • 10. Back to the Future
  • Epilogue: Everything under the Sun is in Tune
  • Index
Review by Choice Review

Essentially, this is an autobiography that focuses on the parts of Close's life that involved eclipses--mostly solar but also lunar. Close sprinkles scientific explanations throughout and indulges in a digression about the history of some regions in which eclipses were viewed (or not viewed--clouds happen). The writing style tends towards the breathless, as the author is clearly quite excited about eclipses and wants to convey that enthusiasm. Nonetheless, at times, it can verge on "Hey, kids, we're gonna have fun today!" and tries too hard to get readers worked up. Maybe this reviewer is just cynical. It might have been more effective if this book had been presented in a format that allowed color photography throughout so that instead of enraptured text being accompanied by murky black-and-white pictures, the beauty the author describes could have been immediately accessible. Most of the photographs are repeated in color in a middle section of the book, but they really lose their immediacy when readers must flip back and forth. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers only. --David John Van Domelen, Amarillo College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

In this engaging memoir of his global travels to view solar eclipses (six so far), Close begins with his first experience at age eight in Britain, a partial eclipse in 1954. Crediting that and, touchingly, the teacher who explained the phenomenon with inspiring his interest in science, Close recalls his vow to attend England's next eclipse in 1999. In the meantime, he became a world-class particle physicist and popular-science author (The Infinity Puzzle, 2011). Close imparts intriguing facts about why and how frequently eclipses occur and their application in dating historical and biblical events. Turning back to the 1999 eclipse, Close palpably imparts its visible effects, which, unfortunately, didn't include totality. His next eclipse, in 2001 in cloudless Zambia, was awesome: twilight falling in mid-day, a wall of approaching darkness, and the instantaneous vanishing of the sun and revelation of a black hole in its place, provoking ineffably profound emotions. Close concludes with advice for seeing the moon's next occlusion of the sun on August 21, 2017, in the United States, which presages superhigh demand for this excellent eclipse primer.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2017 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Close (The Infinity Puzzle), a professor of physics at Oxford, recounts his longstanding fascination with eclipses in a volume that blends travel diary and science tutorial. Starting with a 1954 partial eclipse that Close saw as a boy in the English countryside, he leads readers through his journeys to Zambia, Morocco, the South Pacific, and beyond in pursuit of the moon's shadow. In chapters loosely organized by specific eclipses, Close shares both the fundamentals of such adventures and the science behind this celestial configuration. Through his chummy and conversational vignettes, readers learn about mitigating inclement weather, eye safety, and the upcoming 2017 and 2024 North American eclipses. Diving deeper, Close demonstrates the scientific value of this phenomenon. Ancients and contemporaries alike used eclipses to learn about our planet and our sun, and experts accurately dated Jesus's crucifixion and other biblical events "thanks to astronomy." Close's simple, winding, and occasionally evocative language is tinged with nostalgia, and his readers will see both the humanist and scientific elements involved in the "exquisite alignment of sun, moon, and earth." Close provides eyewitness account from regular people and personal reflections on seeing totality, convincingly demonstrating that there is nothing better than standing in lunar darkness and feeling "humbled by the ability of science to predict." (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A theoretical physicist shares his "lifelong fascination with eclipses."Many readers will share Close's (Physics/Oxford Univ.; Half-Life: The Divided Life of Bruno Pontecorvo, Physicist or Spy, 2015 etc.) conviction that the solar eclipse is "the most beautiful natural phenomenon" one can see. The author witnessed his first eclipse in 1954 at the age of 8. Still captivated by their allurehe has become a dedicated eclipse-watcher, traveling to remote spots around the world in pursuit of the experiencethe author artfully weaves together his own experiences and an explanation of the phenomenon. He begins with a "cosmic coincidence." Although our sun is "400 times broader than the moon," because it is "400 times further away," they can appear to be the same size. This allows the moon to block out the sun from our view during a total eclipse, a phenomenon that occurs every 18 months somewhere on Earth. The next event will take place on Aug. 21, 2017, when "up to 200 million people will gather in a narrow belt across the USA, from Oregon to South Carolina, to witness the most watched total solar eclipse in history." Remarkably, although Greek astronomers did not understand the phenomenon, they were able to predict the occurrence of solar eclipses with an accuracy of about a month, and Shakespeare noted their occurrence in King Lear. Eclipse-watching has its disappointments, writes Closee.g., in 1999, when the time and viewing opportunity had been precisely calculated but his view was completely obscured "by layers of impenetrable dark clouds." More recently, a 5,000-mile trip to Zambia proved to be successful, and he describes the thrill of observing "a disc of pure blackness beg[in] to slide across the face of the Sun." The author intends to share the upcoming August eclipse with his grandchildren, and he provides detailed instructions on how readers can see it for themselves. Illuminating preparatory reading for the August eclipse. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.