The Secret Life of Stars

Lisa Harvey-Smith, Eirian Chapman

The Secret Life of Stars
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The Secret Life of Stars

Lisa Harvey-Smith, Eirian Chapman

We all know the Sun, the powerhouse of our solar system, but what about Luyten’s Flare, the Rosino-Zwicky Object or Chanal’s variable star? For those whose curiosity takes them far beyond Earth’s atmosphere, The Secret Life of Stars offers a personal and readily understood introduction to some of the Galaxy’s most remarkable stars.

Each chapter connects us to the various different and unusual stars and their amazing characteristics and attributes, from pulsars, blue stragglers and white dwarfs to cannibal stars and explosive supernovae. With chapter illustrations by Eirian Chapman, this book brings to life the remarkable personalities of these stars, reminding readers what a diverse and unpredictable universe we live in and how fortunate we are to live around a stable star, our Sun.


I usually prefer fiction and was delighted by how much I loved Lisa Harvey-Smith’s Under the Stars: Astrophysics for Bedtime and looked forward to her next book, The Secret Life of Stars: Astrophysics for Everyone. To be honest, The Secret Life of Stars left me starstruck; not just overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of it all, but by how much more there is to discover. Thanks to the author’s chatty, breezy style, I now understand concepts that had previously eluded me; she talks about stars like old friends and now they’re mine, too. The universe (while still above me) no longer feels beyond me.

It takes all types to make a cosmos – blue giants, red hypergiants and white dwarfs, pulsars, neutron stars and black holes that live, breathe, grow and (even) die. Most stars live in pairs: some born as identical twins, others star-crossed lovers thrown together by fate, or odd couples that just somehow fell into each other’s orbits. And there are binaries within binaries within binaries, making me appreciate our solitary yellow dwarf star, The Sun.

There are runaway stars careening across the galaxy and stars that burn like 10 million suns, and stars that bend space, time, light and (frankly) my mind with the darkest mystery of them all: black holes.

If you’re interested in astronomy, this book’s for you. If you’re not, read it and you will be! But be warned: your worldview will never be the same.

Highly recommended for anyone with an open mind who reads at a secondary school level.

Athina Clarke is the children’s book buyer at Readings Malvern.

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