REPRINT OF book review
AstroGaia News, monthly publication of the National Space Society and the New York Space Society. May 2012, page 3
Dancing with "Our Neighbor Stars"--a book review of Thomas Wm. Hamilton's Stellar Book. Reviewed by Harold Egeln, Jr.
Want to get to know your fascinating and diverse stellar neighbors within 20 lightyears of the Earth? Then retired astronomer Thomas Wm. Hamilton of Staten Island is your ideal onformant and delightful tour guide, and his tour vehicle is his newest book, the third in recent years, "Our Neighbor Stars, Including Brown Dwarfs", published by Strategic Book Publishing.
Hamilton's wonderful book presents all the information known about the 100 stars in Earth's immediate neighborhood, and he conveys the information in such an engaging and absorbing way that I had to read the book in one sitting in the spirit of enjoying learning.
As he goes in order from the closest star systems to those out to about 20 lightyears, Hamilton takes us on an armchair star trek. Included in his information are these facts about the stars: their lightyear distances from Earth, apparent and absolute magnitudes, mass and diameters, spectral type classification, surface temperature, colors, flares if any, age and expected life span, planets if any, possible Goldilocks habitable zones, constellation location, and their own nearest neighbors.
Hamilton, with a lifetime of astronomical experience and knowlledgable in astronomy education along with the planetarium field and Apollo Project work, includes their discoverers and their discoverers' stories, unless because of brightness they were always known. He peppers his accounts with additional tidbits, at times using his well-known cosmic comic flair for humor to tickle our funny bones.
When referring to the old, but debris-strewn Sun-like Tau Ceti 11.89 lightyears away, a favorite among science fiction writers and UFO speculators as a home of imagined advanced civilizations (as is Epsilon Eridani at 10.52 lightyears), Hamilton engages his humor factor button.
"That the star is older than the Sun, and yet no Tau Cetian monsters have invaded the Solar System for fun and profit," he writes, "may mean no chance for civilization there, possibly because heavy meteor and asteroid bombardment of planets makes life unlikely. Or maybe we just don't taste good enough."
Before he introduces us to "The Closest Stars" in Part 2, Hamilton in Part 1 tells how star distances, all guesswork until the early 19th Century, were first determined by astronomers of the 1800s, and how advances were made throughout the 20th Century. The recent role of space probes, such as the European Space Agency's Hipparcos, are credited with getting stellar distances perfected.
It is helpful that he has included lists (indexes) with an alphabetical listing of the stars, star classes, and constellations with neighboring stars, along with astronomers' names he cited.
In "Our Neighbor Stars" Hamilton, who is also a science fiction writer and author of the time travel thriller "Time for Patriots--the Twentyfirst Century Confronts Bunker Hill--and After!", has written a book that appeals to several levels of interest.
It can inform the astronomical novice or curious from the general public in a clear way, help further the knowledge of the astronomically literate and space fans, as well as putting our star neighbors together in one essential, convenient handbook for amateur and professional astronomers.
And Hamilton, whose newest book was recently preceded by his "Useful Star Names", returns to sci-fi soon with an anthology featuring his own science fiction stories.
Right now Tom Hamilton, with "Our Neighbor Stars", sings "Getting to Know You" for us to our starry companions as he makes his readers truly dance with the stars.