Astronomy contributor Berman tenders an overview of the Sun’s many qualities and associations mixed with solar encounters of the personal kind.
“Everything about the Sun is either amazing or useful,” writes the author. Say, it is the sole source of life and energy on planet Earth. What Berman particularly enjoys is the Sun’s quirkiness: that its primary colors are green, red and blue; that what it emits most strongly is the color green (and how that effects the human way of seeing, both day and night); that it bestows health in the form of vitamin D, and steals health in the form of melanoma; that its rainbows cast no shadows. The author’s history of our solar infatuation is fleeting but inspiring, and he offers fine chapters on sunspots; the transit of Venus (how it was used to determine galactic distances); carbon dating; magnetism; the cyclical elements of eccentricity, obliquity and precession; and the sad, excruciating steps of its demise. Berman also examines the Sun’s role in climate change, as he puts into context the human agency in such a shift. If Richard Cohen’s Chasing the Sun (2010) and Gillian Turner’s North Pole, South Pole (2010) went into more detail than Berman, they would be hard put to match his intimate association with solar activity. He has been lucky enough, whether on his own dime or on assignment, to witness total eclipses, the transit of Venus and auroras borealis, and he writes of them here with immediacy and a delightful peal of wonderment.
A quick, smart and colorful biography of “yon flaming orb.”