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Good astrophysics book?

  1. Nov 2, 2015 #1
    Can you tell me what's a good book to get me started in astrophysics?

    P.S. I have already read Big Bang by simon singh and A Brief History of Time by stephen hawking but they're astronomy books
    PS2 I'm 15
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 2, 2015 #2


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    Hi gsmaragdakis, welcome to PF.

    The two books you listed are popular treatments about cosmology, rather than astronomy. Since this suggests a possible confusion in terminology, why won't you tell us what do you mean by astrophysics? That is, what you're interested in reading about, specifically? Solar system and exoplanets, stellar properties and evolution, or galaxies and their clusters? Are you more interested in observations and their methodology, or physical processes? Would you rather read about one of those topics in-depth, or would prefer a broad introduction to all these concepts?
  4. Nov 2, 2015 #3
    What math are you comfortable with? What physics?
  5. Nov 3, 2015 #4
    By astrophysics i mean the physics (laws for example)of the space and the stars
  6. Nov 3, 2015 #5
    High school to university level
  7. Nov 3, 2015 #6
    That doesn't tell us anything useful. Can you list concrete topics?
  8. Nov 3, 2015 #7
    well there are several,but the most advanced i've done yet are:conservation of total energy and degration of energy in physics and in math there are actually several ones so i can't list them all,but the most i've studied in equations for example is 4th level
  9. Nov 6, 2015 #8


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    Alright, I'm going to assume rigorous treatments are not what is looked for at this stage, but rather an introduction to, or discussion of concepts that doesn't cut corners despite being aimed at the general audience.
    I'd then recommend two books:
    Extreme explosions, by David Stevenson
    The life and death of stars, by Kenneth Lang

    This first one talks about the death of stars. Its first quarter or so contains a concise, yet in-depth overview of stellar physics accessible to a lay reader. It covers observational techniques, HR diagram, composition, structure and nuclear processes in stars, and life cycle of stars. It's what you'd find in an introductory stellar astrophysics course, sans the maths.
    The rest of the book, and its main focus, discusses the more exotic observations, unusual behaviour in dying stars, the problems in fitting various models to the data. You'll find all the various kinds of supernovae there, magnetars, gamma ray bursts, collapsars and other topics covered.
    As such, the book first provides a good foundation, and then sparks the interest in the meaty-gritty bits of science. It's the kind of book I'd love to have been able to read when I was in secondary school.
    The drawback is that it is rather narrow in its focus. It's all about stars and their explosions. Also, it's written by a researcher with a background in another field (PhD in microbiology), but then again, it's not a rigorous textbook but rather an overview of existing research, so it doesn't matter that much.

    The second book should deliver a more general approach to stellar astrophysics, with some bits on large-scale processes. There's lots of useful diagrams and in-depth, comprehensive explanations of various observations and concepts, all in a conversational, accessible manner.

    Both books can start you out on astrophysics, in the sense of providing some background on astrophysical processes. Like those books you mentioned in the OP, they don't require mathematical sophistication or even much knowledge (which can be a boon or a drawback, depending on the reader), but do require lots of focus and a willingness to learn.
    The second one can provide you with a road map to navigate as you decide on your further studies. The first one gives some idea about how the science actually works, with all its uncertainties and nitty-gritty bits, but also the wonder and puzzle-solving glee.

    Should your interest get sparked, and you decide to go deeper into your chosen subject, grab an introductory university-level textbook. You will need a good background in mathematics to benefit from those, though. Good handle on calculus, at least up to and including being comfortable with integration and differentiation is pretty much a must before picking up an astrophysics textbook.
  10. Nov 6, 2015 #9
    Thanks you very much :)
  11. Nov 8, 2015 #10


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    Any intro astro text would probably be good. ASTR 101 is a general-ed science class, so the mathematics is pretty light in most textbooks. We use Discovering the Universe by Comins where I teach. Buy older editions to save money.
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