ASNSW Book Reviews


Author: Hannu Kartunnen et al
Pages: 468 Hardcover (4th edition)
Reviewed by: Chris Douglass

This is not a book to be read from cover to cover. Fundamental Astronomy is a textbook for university students studying Astronomy or advanced Amateur Astronomers who want to delve deeper into the subject or to find information on specific areas of interest.

This book was written in Finland in both Finnish and English and since the first edition was published in 1984, has been revised several times. This version reviewed here is the fourth in this line and has 468 pages full of astronomical details and information.

The chapters are broken into 2 basic types. The first 6 give the reader an introduction to Astronomical concepts, the systems and instruments used by Astronomers and the mechanics used to determine celestial motion. The following 13 chapters detail specific objects, such as The Solar System, Binary Stars, The Interstellar Medium, Star Clusters and Cosmology.

These chapters are further broken down with subheadings giving a full and complete description of the topic. For example, the chapter on Stellar Evolution has within it details on Evolutionary Time Scales, The Contraction of Stars Towards the Main Sequence, The Main Sequence Phase, The Giant Phase, The Final Stages of Evolution, The Evolution of Close Binary Stars, Comparison with Observations and the Origin of the Elements.

Each chapter is briefly described at the beginning and quickly gives the reader an understanding of what is contained within the chapter and who are the main people responsible for discovering or identifying this information. Chapters also have examples and exercises for the student (or reader) to further enhance the knowledge of the subject covered in the preceding pages.

The book contains many excellent graphics and photographs. Although only in black and white, they are of excellent quality and of a size that makes all details apparent.

A valuable addition to any textbook is the appendices. These start with the Mathematics needed for Astronomical calculations and include Geometry all the way to the Numerical Solution of Equations. The second appendix is a very basic Theory of Relativity that includes the Lorentz Transformation, General Relativity and Tests of General Relativity.

The next sets are the tables. This will be the most referred to section of this book and should be copied by all Astronomers for reference purposes. This series of tables starts with basic units, symbols, abbreviations and definitions, comprehensive details of the bodies that comprise our Solar System including the largest satellites of each planet (18 for Saturn and 16 for Jupiter) and information on Comets and Meteors. Also included are our 65 nearest stars, 48 brightest stars, double stars and galaxies. Details are given for both optical and radio telescopes used throughout the world.

For those interested enough in doing the exercises at the end of each chapter, the answers are included and most give a brief explanation. There is an excellent list of reference material for those readers who want further information on particular topics covered in the book.

As stated earlier in this review, the photographs throughout the book are black and white, however each chapter has several colour plates showing astronomical details relating to that chapter and these are grouped together at the end of the book.

My conclusion: A book that should be in every Astronomical Society’s library. It is a great reference book for students or astronomers looking for information on a vast range of astronomical topics. It is well written and although the majority of Amateur Astronomers will not need the equations, these can be skipped over without losing the context of what is being discussed.

I would like to thank Springer–Verlag for their generosity in giving the Astronomical Society of NSW the books that have been reviewed by our Society’s members and are now available from our library for borrowing.

Chris Douglass.