Astronomy Today, Global Edition

Eric Chaisson / Steve McMillan  
Total pages
September 2014
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Astronomy Today, Global Edition
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With Astronomy Today, Eighth Edition, trusted authors Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan communicate their excitement about astronomy, delivering current and thorough science with insightful pedagogy. The text emphasizes critical thinking and visualization, and it focuses on the process of scientific discovery, teaching students “how we know what we know.”

Alternate Versions

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


The Process of Science

  • The Process of Science is emphasized throughout the book and the authors strive to give students an understanding of how scientists think and work.
  • Students are encouraged to ask how we know what we know and to learn the historical development of the discipline.

Insightful Pedagogy

  • Process of Science Check questions throughout every chapter prompt students to consider how astronomers use various aspects of the process of science in their research. Concept Checks are critical-thinking questions throughout each chapter that prompt students to reflect on the material just presented and to test their mastery of key concepts. Answers are provided in the back of the book.
  • The Big Picture feature on each chapter opening spread explains how chapter content fits in with an overall perspective on introductory astronomy, helping students see how each chapter is connected to a broad understanding of the universe.
  • Concept Link Icons refer students back to previous sections in the text to help them understand how concepts are related and allow them to more easily see the “big picture.”
  • 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.
  • More Precisely Boxes present mathematical information that the instructor can include or exclude in class discussions.
  • 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.
  • ART
  • Compound Art employs multiple-part images to capture all aspects of a complex subject wherever possible, including images from various wavelengths, interpretive line drawings paired with astronomical photographs, and breakouts that zoom in to or out from astronomical objects and phenomena.
  • Annotated Art, newly introduced in this edition and appearing in at least half of the book’s figures, employs a proven educational research tool by integrating written and visual information to enhance student understanding of photos and diagrams.

New to this Edition


  • Chapter 6 (now The Solar System: Comparative Planetology and Formation Scenarios) was significantly reworked to reflect a revised approach to presenting comparative planetology within a planet-by-planet chapter structure.
  • Chapter 15 (now Exoplanets: Planetary Systems Beyond Our Own) has been extensively revamped to reflect our new understanding of exoplanets, debris, asteroids, and the Kuiper belt.
  • A new two-page visual presentation of the timeline of space missions appears in Chapter 6.


  • The Big Question at the end of each chapter mirrors The Big Picture at the beginning and piques student interest about current research. It identifies a critical unanswered question relating to chapter content, reinforcing that astronomy is still an evolving science.
  • Fully half of the figures in this text contain annotations. Informed by education research, these annotations function much like the professor’s voice, interpreting and explaining the art for the student.
  • Additional scale markers have been added to visually help students understand the difficult-to-comprehend scale of the universe.
  • Learning Outcomes, which are consistent with the AAS outcomes, have replaced Learning Goals, and are reinforced with helpful labels in the end of chapter the end-of-chapter Summary and Review and Discussion questions are made explicit.
  • The end-of-chapter section has been expanded to include both collaborative and individual activities.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Charting the Heavens: The Foundations of Astronomy
  • 2. The Copernican Revolution: The Birth of Modern Science
  • 3. Radiation: Information from the Cosmos
  • 4. Spectroscopy: The Inner Workings of Atoms
  • 5. Telescopes: The Tools of Astronomy
  • 6. The Solar System: Comparative Planetology and Formation Models
  • 7. Earth: Our Home in Space
  • 8. The Moon and Mercury: Scorched and Battered Worlds
  • 9. Venus: Earth’s Sister Planet
  • 10. Mars: A Near Miss for Life?
  • 11. Jupiter: Giant of the Solar System
  • 12. Saturn: Spectacular Rings and Mysterious Moons
  • 13. Uranus and Neptune: The Outer Worlds of the Solar System
  • 14. Solar System Debris: Keys to Our Origin
  • 15. Exoplanets: Planetary Systems Beyond Our Own.
  • 16. The Sun: Our Parent Star
  • 17. The Stars: Giants, Dwarfs, and the Main Sequence
  • 18. The Interstellar Medium: Gas and Dust among the Stars
  • 19. Star Formation: A Traumatic Birth
  • 20. Stellar Evolution: The Life and Death of a Star
  • 21. Stellar Explosions: Novae, Supernovae, and the Formation of the Elements
  • 22. Neutron Stars and Black Holes: Strange States of Matter
  • 23. The Milky Way Galaxy: A Spiral in Space
  • 24. Galaxies: Building Blocks of the Universe
  • 25. Galaxies and Dark Matter: The Large-Scale Structure of the Cosmos
  • 26. Cosmology: The Big Bang and the Fate of the Universe
  • 27. The Early Universe: Toward the Beginning of Time  
  • 28. Life in the Universe: Are We Alone?


Eric Chaisson received his Ph.D. in astrophysics from Harvard, where he spent 10 years on the faculty; after holding various professorships at Johns Hopkins and Tufts, Eric is back at Harvard teaching and doing research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He has written 12 books and received a number of literary awards along the way.

Steve McMillan received his Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard and is a professor of physics at Drexel University. He has published more than 100 articles and scientific papers.