Book review of the atlas of astronomical dream locations

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Book review of the atlas of astronomical dream locations
Book review of the atlas of astronomical dream locations

Travel Guide to the Stars

This book reveals which travel destinations are definitely worthwhile for friends of astronomy.

Dieter B. Herrmann shows us in his new book how traveling to the astronomical locations of this world can seduce us into dreaming. The portraits of famous observatories or places of historical importance, garnished with splendid color photos, alternate with the author's very personally colored travel reports, which show his special view of some places of worship of astronomy and their historical relevance for astronomy.

In the foreword, Herrmann frankly admits how a new era began for him as a former East German astronomer and author with the opening of the GDR border, which he used for the "long-awaited exploration of the world", which of course also set him on the trail of astronomy let travel. The fascination he experienced is reflected above all in the 13 larger reports, which are intended to provide better acquaintance with some "dream locations of astronomy". In Herrmann's own words, these are particularly regions that have an aura of mystery attached to them. With his pictorial, but always very cultivated language, he takes us, for example, to South American Peru to the mysterious scratching lines of Nazca and to the calendar stone from the Inca era, the "Intihuatana", in the mountains of Machu Picchu.

Didn't cast a shadow

Here the researching astronomer comes to light when he - long since returning from his trip to his native Berlin - pulls out all the stops to be able to subsequently prove through extensive research and evaluation of various photos that the 13 degrees inclined southern surface of the granite block at the time of the beginning of autumn and spring does not cast a shadow, which corresponds to the latitude of Machu Picchu.

The obsession with which Herrmann gets to the bottom of the matter is almost contagious. This also applies to the other travel reports, which always show how important it is for the author to establish a connection between the cultural-historical findings and the astronomically relevant aspects of a place. With his travel miniatures, as he calls them, he is obviously also concerned with awakening a longing in the readers to visit the described places and regions themselves and to experience the spiritual stimuli associated with them. And he does it really well.

The author's astronomical dream locations can be found on all five continents, even if understandably the number of European travel destinations predominates. 27 famous places of astronomy in Europe are presented alphabetically from Babelsberg to the English town of Woolsthorpe, where Newton's birthplace is located.

The following travel reports, in which Herrmann follows in the footsteps of astronomers such as Galilei or Kepler, offer a very special reading pleasure. You get to know Galileo's stages of life in Tuscany and Venetia and learn how Kepler fared at the imperial court in Prague. The anecdote from Prague's Tyn Church makes one smile, when the author experienced a violent confrontation with the priest of the church because he was probably too bold to photograph Tycho Brahe's grave slab.

In the chapter "The mobile life of Ejnar Hertzsprung" we are familiarized with the places where the well-known astronomer worked in Göttingen, Potsdam and Leiden. First, I stumbled over the statement that Hertzsprung in Potsdam had determined the distance to the Small Magellanic Cloud for the first time. But as one reads in his original publication of 1913, for some of the Cepheids already observed in the star system at that time, he was able to use the period-luminosity relationship to prove that the Small Magellanic Cloud must actually lie outside the Milky Way.

Herrmann proves to us with a very personal research on Vincent van Gogh's painting "Starry Night" how much it is in his new work to think outside the "astronomical box" and to focus on the whole picture.. The same applies to chapters devoted to the Egyptian pyramids or ancient Indian observatories, the calendar knowledge of the Maya in Mexico, the starry world of the Incas in Peru or the astronomy of the Aborigines in Australia.

The travel destinations of the two Americas are of a similar size to Europe, namely about a third of the book's content. In the "Central and South America" section, alongside Mexico and Peru, the astro Eldorado Chile stands out as a special highlight, while North America comes up with the classic observatories, with the legendary observatory on Mount Wilson being given a little more pages. Another third of the volume of the book is shared by astronomical travel destinations in Asia, Africa and Australia.

In all the texts of the book, which, as the title suggests, is to be understood as an atlas, Dieter B. Herrmann proves to be a profound expert on the subject, and the reader is happy to be taken along on voyages of discovery in the footsteps of astronomy. The presentation of the topics de alt with thrives on the author's extensive knowledge and sovereign style of writing, as he has often demonstrated in his earlier works.

The layout of the book is very dignified and impresses with its stylish design and almost bibliophilic print image. The Atlas of Astronomical Dream Places comes highly recommended to any traveling astronomy enthusiast, whether your mind wanders to the sites of astronomy from home or you prefer to be inspired by the genius loci on the spot.

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