A Behind-the-Telescope Look at Astronomy

“Today we're learning things as fundamental as the shape of our universe, or how the universe might've begun or ended. We are learning new things about planets and solar systems beyond our own that could potentially host life. And these … [findings are] fundamental to who we are as humans and who we are as planet citizens.”

In this episode of Book Dreams, award-winning astronomer Emily Levesque joins Eve and Julie for an exhilarating exchange about the cosmos. Author of The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy's Vanishing Explorers, Emily shares what it’s like–and why it matters–when scientists search the heavens with massive telescopes using mirrors that can measure twenty, thirty, and even forty feet across. Emily explains red supergiants and how they help us understand the universe, how she and her colleague discovered a new type of star, and how ladybugs and cobras can derail years of work in a matter of minutes. If you’ve ever sat through a physics class feeling clueless and frustrated, this is the episode for you! And, yes, Julie asks whether there’s intelligent life out there.

Emily Levesque, a professor in the University of Washington's astronomy department, is the recipient of the 2020 Newton Lacy Pierce Prize and the 2014 Annie Jump Cannon Award from the American Astronomical Society. She's also a 2019 Cottrell Scholar and a 2017 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow. Her research program is focused on improving our overall understanding of how massive stars evolve and die. The Last Stargazers, Emily's first popular science book, is an Amazon Best Book of 2020, a finalist for the PEN/EO Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, a finalist for the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books, and a 2021 Alex Award official nominee.

The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy's Vanishing Explorers

"It's like catching a glimpse of the magic behind the curtain galaxies away and leaves you hanging on every spectacular word. A must read for anyone who has looked up at the sky and felt a sense of wonder as well as those considering the world of astrophysics and astronomy." ― Tamara Robertson, host of Mythbusters: The Search, STEM speaker

"Emily's book is a compulsive read. It demonstrates what being an observational astronomer is really like―the highs, the lows and the unscheduled things that can happen at telescopes around the world! Give this book to every young person (especially the girls!) that you know who likes math and science." ― Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Astrophysicist, Oxford

Go Deeper

Emily Levesque

The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy's Vanishing Explorers, by Emily Levesque

Red Supergiants

Phil Massey

Anna Żytkow

Kip Thorne

Thorne–Żytkow Object

Paul Hodge

Albert Einstein's Theory of General Relativity

Arthur Eddington

SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy)

Eve Yohalem

Julie Sternberg

Book Dreams Podcast


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