Review: Comets! by David J Eicher



In 1975, at the age of fourteen, David Eicher fell in love with the Universe. until then he had wanted to be a doctor, but became entranced by Comet West and has been fascinated by comets ever since. Consequently he gave up his medical aspirations and became the editor of Astronomy magazine and author of seventeen books about science and history instead. This volume was written in early 2013 in order to be available in time for the arrival at naked-eye visibility of Comet ISON later this month. Comet ISON is expected to be a ‘Great Comet’ – a particularly bright comet that will put on an impressive show for observers here on Earth.

This book covers the history of cometary science from ancient times, particularly in Europe and China, and the cultural significance of comets, the nature and origins of comets, and current thinking in cometary science. The last two chapters are aimed at the beginner amateur astronomer looking for advice about searching for comets and photographing them.

The author admits that writing this book was a rush job – three months – but one would hardly notice. there were moments of repetition and spelling/grammar errors, though these are minor irritants. The author is enthusiastic and knowledgeable, capable of conveying his enthusiasm intelligently. He doesn’t overwhelm the reader with complex mathematics but explains the science quite clearly. I would have liked to have seen an example of a drawing of a comet; the instructions for drawing while observing seem complicated.

Illustrated liberally with photographs of comets and packed with fascinating information and advice, this book would be perfect for readers who want to know more about this fascinating subject.

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