CAREER: Astronomer. Overlook Observatory, Woodstock, NY, director; Storm King Observatory, Cornwall, director; Marymount Manhattan College, adjunct professor of astronomy; producer of Skywindow (weekly radio show).
Secrets of the Night Sky: The Most Amazing Things in the Universe You Can See with the Naked Eye, illustrated by Alan McKnight, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.
Cosmic Adventure: A Renegade Astronomer's Guide to Our World and Beyond, illustrated by Alan McKnight, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.
Strange Universe: The Weird and Wild Science of Everyday Life, on Earth and Beyond, Times Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Author of "Strange Universe" column for Astronomy and of "Night Watchman" column for Discover.
SIDELIGHTS: Bob Berman is known to professional and amateur astronomers alike for his columns in Astronomy and Discover. Berman is also the author of a number of books, including Secrets of the Night Sky: The Most Amazing Things in the Universe You Can See with the Naked Eye. The book is organized by season and includes 150 line drawings. Many of the chapters are written around a particular region, pinpointing observable objects or scenes. For those unfamiliar with terms, Berman explains the basics in the opening chapter, "Coming to Terms with the Universe."
In the chapter "Baa Baa Betelgeuse" Berman explains that the huge red supergiant observed marking the right shoulder of Orion the Hunter was considered by the Sumerians to be part of the same star pattern; to them the configuration resembled a sheep and the term Betelgeuse actually means "the armpit of the sheep." In addition to sections on galaxies, satellites, planets, eclipses, and meteors, Berman writes about such subjects as twilight, darkness, the color of the universe, and space travel. He writes of things we can see, and others which we cannot, such as Cygnus X-1, a black hole scientists believe lies within the constellation named for Cygnus the swan. And although he concen-trates on those objects that can be seen with the naked eye, he also offers advice on buying and using telescopes and binoculars. Astronomy reviewer Tracy Staedter noted that for those readers who do not yet know Berman, "you're in for a treat. Berman has a conversational, humorous tone that invites readers into the cosmos without using a lick of technical jargon."
A Publishers Weekly critic called Berman's Cosmic Adventure: A Renegade Astronomer's Guide to Our World and Beyond a "freewheeling cosmic tour, which will open perspectives for the astronomically clueless as well as for seasoned stargazers." In this volume of essays, Berman examines controversies, phenomena, and little-known space facts. Among the mysteries he studies are the moon's brilliance, which has never been adequately explained by the scientific community. He also notes that the sunspot cycle completely stopped from the years 1640 to 1715, and that the Hubble telescope indicates that the universe is between eleven and fourteen billion years old, while many stars appear to be much older. Berman offers his vision of what an invasion of Earth by aliens might be like.
Booklist reviewer David Pitt called Strange Universe: The Weird and Wild Science of Everyday Life, on Earth and Beyond "hugely informative and remarkably entertaining." In this volume, Berman, whose column for Astronomy is also titled "Strange Universe," offers lessons in Doppler physics, heat transfer, light spectra, Bernoulli's principle, and more. The chapters are divided into two sections, "What's Going on Here?" and "What's Going on out There?" Subjects in the first section include the transparency of glass, how soap works, the fact that objects of varying weights fall at the same rate, why trees cast blue shadows on snow, how rainbows are formed, and why tall people walk more slowly than short people. In the second section, Berman considers the origin of the university, space time, and black holes.
A Science News contributor said Berman's style "is witty, and his presentation is thoughtful." "Each chapter is self-contained and relatively short," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "making them easy and enjoyable to read."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Astronomy, December, 1995, Tracy Staedter, review of Secrets of the Night Sky: The Most Amazing Things in the Universe You Can See with the Naked Eye, p. 102; July, 2004, review of Strange Universe: The Weird and Wild Science of Everyday Life, on Earth and Beyond, p. 98.
Booklist, February 15, 1995, Gilbert Taylor, review of Secrets of the Night Sky, p. 1043; December 1, 2003, David Pitt, review of Strange Universe, p. 637.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2003, review of Strange Universe, p. 1258.
Publishers Weekly, October 12, 1998, review of Cosmic Adventure: A Renegade Astronomer's Guide to Our World and Beyond, p. 68; October 20, 2003, review of Strange Universe, p. 43.
Science News, February 21, 2004, review of Strange Universe, p. 127.