In the mind-bending sphere (pseudo-sphere?) of the big bang, a second universe, and anti-matter, it is easy to let one's imagination run hopelessly amok. Levitt shows admirable restraint in his analyses of such heteroclites as white dwarfs, supernovae, neutron stars, black holes, white holes, pulsars and quasars. There are indeed, rational, accessible explanations for such phenomena, although one is sometimes hard pressed to choose between alternative, conflicting hypotheses. Reviewing the methods, models and pitfalls of the astronomer -- sub-atomic particles, parallax, ergs, scientific notation -- he demonstrates how gravitational and nuclear forces can act on a star to produce the spectacular celestial events that challenge and intrigue the astrophysicist and the layman alike. Although Levitt will push an analogy a little far occasionally -- a three hundred foot box filled with light bulbs -- he remains intelligent, interesting, and responsible.