Astronomy Today:International Edition

Prentice Hall
Eric Chaisson / Steve McMillan  
Total pages
August 2007
Related Titles


With Astronomy Today, Sixth Edition, trusted authors Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan communicate their excitement about astronomy and awaken students to the universe around them. Thoroughly updated, the revised edition focuses on the process of scientific discovery and scientific method, making “how we know what we know” a more integral part of the text with attention to clearly and concisely presenting scientific terms to the non-science student. In addition, the authors have taken great care to identify places where they could clarify or simplify an explanation, better define a term, and discuss the process used in making a discovery.  This edition offers the most complete and innovative learning package available for one- or two-semester introductory courses in astronomy.


Alternate Versions

  • Astronomy Today, Volume 1:  The Solar System, 5/e - Focuses primarily on planetary coverage for a 1-term course.  Includes Chapters 1-16, 28.
  • Astronomy Today, Volume 2:  Stars and Galaxies, 5/e - Focuses primarily on stars and stellar evolution for a 1-term course.  Includes Chapters 1-5 and 16-28.



  • The “Process of Science” is integrated into the text narrative. In particular the focus on scientific discovery and scientific method, or “how we know what we know”, is now a much more integral part of the text.
  • Part-opening essays emphasize the human endeavor aspect of science. Each part opener introduces a discovery and provides a historical context to the chapters that follow.
  • Discovery Boxes explore a wide variety of interesting supplementary topics, providing students with insight into how scientific knowledge evolves, and emphasizing the process of science. 
  • Concept Checks provide critical-thinking questions, based on chapter Learning Goals, that test students' conceptual understanding of a topic before moving on to the next subject.
  • An Expanded Glossary features over 900  terms, including definitions of words students may not know, but are not necessarily "scientific" terms
  • Concept Link Icons refer students back to previous sections in the text to help students understand how concepts are related and allow them to more easily see the “big picture.”
  • Spectrum Icons accompany each photo in the text, identifying the wavelength used to capture the image and reinforcing for students how light influences the way we see things.



New to this Edition

  • The “Process of Science” is integrated into the text narrative. In particular the focus on scientific discovery and scientific method, or "how we know what we know", is now a much more integral part of the text
  • End-of-chapter summaries have been reworked, tyingdirectly to the learning goals and linking to key figures in the chapter.
  • Expanded Glossary features over 900 terms, including definitions of words students may not know, but are not necessarily "scientific" terms
  • Revised art program provides more direct and accurate representations of astronomical objects.
  • All chapter content has been thoroughly revised for currency.:

Added coverage of adaptive optics, the CHARA array, SST, and the future of HST in Chapter 5; Introduction of Eris and the issue of Pluto's demotion in Chapter 6; Updated planetary exploration discussion in Chapter 6 to add new missions now at Venus, Mars, and Saturn; Significant updates on Martian water from the Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Express, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in Chapter 10; Updates on the Cassini-Huygens missions to Saturn and Titan; Updates in Chapter 14 on the Stardust and Deep Impact missions; Updates on observations and properties of extrasolar planets in Chapter 15. Expanded discussion of extremophilic life and stellar and galactic habitable zones in Chapter 28; and much much more.


Table of Contents

Volume 1: Chapters 1-16, 28

Volume 2: Chapters 1-5, 16-28


Part 1: Astronomy and the Universe


Chapter 1. Charting The Heavens: The Foundations of Astronomy

1.1 Our Place in Space

1.2 Scientific Theory and the Scientific Method

1.3 The "Obvious" View

1.4 Earth's Orbital Motion

1.5 Astronomical Timekeeping

1.6 The Motion of the Moon

1.7 The Measurement of Distance

Chapter Review


Chapter 2. The Copernican Revolution: The Birth of Modern Science

2.1 Ancient Astronomy

2.2 The Geocentric Universe

2.3 The Heliocentric Model of the Solar System

2.4 The Birth of Modern Astronomy

2.5 The Laws of Planetary Motion

2.6 The Dimensions of the Solar System

2.7 Newton's Laws

2.8 Newtonian Mechanics

Chapter Review


Chapter 3. Radiation: Information from the Cosmos

3.1 Information from the Skies

3.2 Waves in What?

3.3 The Electromagnetic Spectrum

3.4 Thermal Radiation

3.5 The Doppler Effect

Chapter Review


Chapter 4. Spectroscopy: The Inner Workings of Atoms

4.1 Spectral Lines

4.2 Atoms and Radiation

4.3 The Formation of Spectral Lines

4.4 Molecules

4.5 Spectral-Line Analysis

Chapter Review



Chapter 5. Telescopes: The Tools of Astronomy

5.1 Optical Telescopes

5.2 Telescope Size

5.3 Images and Detectors

5.4 High-Resolution Astronomy

5.5 Radio Astronomy

5.6 Interferometry

5.7 Space-Based Astronomy

5.8 Full-Spectrum Coverage

Chapter Review


Part 2: Our Planetary System


Chapter 6. The Solar System: An Introduction to Comparative Planetology

6.1 An Inventory of the Solar System

6.2 Measuring the Planets

6.3 The Overall Layout of the Solar System

6.4 Terrestrial and Jovian Planets

6.5 Interplanetary Matter

6.6 Spacecraft Exploration of the Solar System

6.7 How Did the Solar System Form?

Chapter Review


Chapter 7. Earth: Our Home in Space

7.1 Overall Structure of Planet Earth

7.2 Earth's Atmosphere

7.3 Earth's Interior

7.4 Surface Activity

7.5 Earth's Magnetosphere

7.6 The Tides

Chapter Review


Chapter 8. The Moon and Mercury: Scorched and Battered Worlds

8.1 Orbital Properties

8.2 Physical Properties

8.3 Surface Features on the Moon and Mercury

8.4 Rotation Rates

8.5 Lunar Cratering and Surface Composition

8.6 The Surface of Mercury

8.7 Interiors

8.8 The Origin of the Moon

8.9 Evolutionary History of the Moon and Mercury

Chapter Review


Chapter 9. Venus: Earth's Sister Planet

9.1 Orbital Properties

9.2 Physical Properties

9.3 Long-Distance Observations of Venus

9.4 The Surface of Venus

9.5 The Atmosphere of Venus

9.6 Venus's Magnetic Field and Internal Structure

Chapter Review

Chapter 10. Mars: A Near Miss for Life?

10.1 Orbital Properties

10.2 Physical Properties

10.3 Long-Distance Observations of Mars

10.4 The Martian Surface

10.5 Water on Mars

10.6 The Martian Atmosphere

10.7 Martian Internal Structure

10.8 The Moons of Mars

Chapter Review 


Chapter 11. Jupiter: Giant of the Solar System

11.1 Orbital and Physical Properties

11.2 The Atmosphere of Jupiter

11.3 Internal Structure

11.4 Jupiter's Magnetosphere

11.5 The Moons of Jupiter

11.6 Jupiter's Ring

Chapter Review 


Chapter 12. Saturn: Spectacular Rings and Mysterious Moons

12.1 Orbital and Physical Properties

12.2 Saturn's Atmosphere

12.3 Saturn's Interior and Magnetosphere

12.4 Saturn's Spectacular Ring System

12.5 The Moons of Saturn

Chapter Review 


Chapter 13. Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto: The Outer Worlds of the Solar System

13.1 The Discoveries of Uranus and Neptune

13.2 Orbital and Physical Properties

13.3 The Atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune

13.4 Magnetospheres and Internal Structure

13.5 The Moon Systems of Uranus and Neptune

13.6 The Rings of the Outermost Jovian Planets

Chapter Review


Chapter 14. Solar System Debris: Keys to Our Origin

14.1 Asteroids

14.2 Comets

14.3 Beyond Neptune

14.4 Meteoroids

Chapter Review


Chapter 15. The Formation of Planetary Systems: The Solar System and Beyond

15.1 Modeling Planet Formation

15.2 Formation of the Solar System

15.3 Terrestrial and Jovian Planets

15.4 Solar System Regularities and Irregularities

15.5 Planets Beyond the Solar System

15.6 Is Our Solar System Unusual?

Chapter Review

Part 3: Stars And Stellar Evolution


Chapter 16. The Sun: Our Parent Star

16.1 Physical Properties of the Sun

16.2 The Solar Interior

16.3 The Solar Atmosphere

16.4 Solar Magnetism

16.5 The Active Sun

16.6 The Heart of the Sun

16.7 Observations of Solar Neutrinos

Chapter Review


Chapter 17. Measuring the Stars: Giants, Dwarfs, and the Main Sequence

17.1 The Solar Neighborhood

17.2 Luminosity and Apparent Brightness

17.3 Stellar Temperatures

17.4 Stellar Sizes

17.5 The Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram

17.6 Extending the Cosmic Distance Scale

17.7 Stellar Masses

17.8 Mass and Other Stellar Properties

Chapter Review


Chapter 18. The Interstellar Medium: Gas and Dust Among the Stars

18.1 Interstellar Matter

18.2 Emission Nebulae

18.3 Dark Dust Clouds

18.4 21-Centimeter Radiation

18.5 Interstellar Molecules

Chapter Review


Chapter 19. Star Formation: A Traumatic Birth

19.1 Star-Forming Regions

19.2 The Formation of Stars Like the Sun

19.3 Stars of Other Masses

19.4 Observations of Cloud Fragments and Protostars

19.5 Shock Waves and Star Formation

19.6 Star Clusters

Chapter Review


Chapter 20. Stellar Evolution: The Life and Death of a Star

20.1 Leaving the Main Sequence

20.2 Evolution of a Sun-like Star

20.3 The Death of a Low-Mass Star

20.4 Evolution of Stars More Massive than the Sun

20.5 Observing Stellar Evolution in Star Clusters

20.6 Stellar Evolution in Binary Systems

Chapter Review



Chapter 21. Stellar Explosions: Novae, Supernovae, and the Formation of the Elements

21.1 Life after Death for White Dwarfs

21.2 The End of a High-Mass Star

21.3 Supernovae

21.4 The Formation of the Elements

21.5 The Cycle of Stellar Evolution

Chapter Review


Chapter 22. Neutron Stars and Black Holes: Strange States of Matter

22.1 Neutron Stars

22.2 Pulsars

22.3 Neutron-Star Binaries

22.4 Gamma-Ray Bursts

22.5 Black Holes

22.6 Einstein's Theories of Relativity

22.7 Space Travel Near Black Holes

22.8 Observational Evidence for Black Holes

Chapter Review


Part 4: Galaxies And Cosmology


Chapter 23. The Milky Way Galaxy: A Spiral in Space

23.1 Our Parent Galaxy

23.2 Measuring the Milky Way

23.3 Galactic Structure.

23.4 The Formation of the Milky Way

23.5 Galactic Spiral Arms

23.6 The Mass of the Milky Way Galaxy

23.7 The Galactic Center

Chapter Review


Chapter 24. Galaxies: Building Blocks of the Universe

24.1 Hubble's Galaxy Classification

24.2 The Distribution of Galaxies in Space

24.3 Hubble's Law

24.4 Active Galactic Nuclei

24.5 The Central Engine of an Active Galaxy

Chapter Review


Chapter 25. Galaxies and Dark Matter: The Large-Scale Structure of the Cosmos

25.1 Dark Matter in the Universe

25.2 Galaxy Collisions

25.3 Galaxy Formation and Evolution

25.4 Black Holes in Galaxies

25.5 The Universe on Large Scales

Chapter Review



Chapter 26. Cosmology: The Big Bang and the Fate of the Universe

26.1 The Universe on the Largest Scales

26.2 The Expanding Universe

26.3 The Fate of the Cosmos

26.4 The Geometry of Space

26.5 Will the Universe Expand Forever?

26.6 Dark Energy and Cosmology

26.7 The Cosmic Microwave Background

Chapter Review


Chapter 27. The Early Universe: Toward the Beginning of Time

27.1 Back to the Big Bang

27.2 The Evolution of the Universe

27.3 The Formation of Nuclei and Atoms

27.4 The Inflationary Universe

27.5 The Formation of Structure in the Universe

27.6 Cosmic Structure and the Microwave Background

Chapter Review


Chapter 28. Life In The Universe: Are We Alone?

28.1 Cosmic Evolution

28.2 Life in the Solar System

28.3  Intelligent Life in the Galaxy

28.4  The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Chapter Review



Back Cover

Astronomy Today 6/e  is the more comprehensive text by this: proven team of authors. This twenty-eight chapter text begins with the foundations of the history of science and physics as they relate to astronomy (Part One), then proceeds with an "Earth-out" organization for coverage of the solar system (Part Two), stars and stellar evolution (Part Three), and galaxies and cosmology (Part Four). New with the fourth edition, the book is now available in two paperback splits:


Astronomy Today 6/e: The Solar System  covers Part One on foundations (Chapters 1-5); Part Two on the solar system (Chapters 6-15); the Sun chapter (Chapter 16); and the final chapter on life in the universe (Chapter 28).


Astronomy Today 6/e: Stars and Galaxies includes Part One on foundations (Chapters 1-5); Part Three on stars and stellar evolution (Chapters 16-22); and Part Four on galaxies and cosmology (Chapters 23-28).


Astronomy: A Beginner's Guide to the Universe 5/e is the authors' briefer text. It covers the same scope of material in the same order as Astronomy Today 6/e, but with less detail and in fewer chapters (eighteen instead of twenty-eight) and fewer pages.


Eric Chaisson. Eric holds a doctorate in astrophysics from Harvard University, where he spent ten years on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. For five years, Eric was a Senior Scientist and Director of Educational Programs at the Space Telescope Science Institute and Adjunct Professor of Physics at Johns Hopkins University. He then joined Tufts University, where he is now Professor of Physics, Professor of Education, and Director of the Wright Center for Innovative Science Education. He has written nine books on astronomy, which have received such literary awards as the Phi Beta Kappa Prize, two American Institute of Physics Awards, Harvard's Smith-Weld Prize for Literary Merit, and the Walter P. Kistler Book Award. He has published more than 100 scientific papers in professional journals, and has also received Harvard's Bok Prize for original contributions to astrophysics.


Steve McMillan. Steve holds a bachelor's and master's degree in Mathematics from Cambridge University and a doctorate in Astronomy from Harvard University. He held post-doctoral positions at the University of Illinois and Northwestern University, where he continued his research in theoretical astrophysics, star clusters, and numerical modeling. Steve is currently Distinguished Professor of Physics at Drexel University and a frequent visiting researcher at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study and the University of Tokyo. He has published more than 50 scientific papers in professional journals.