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Book gives young, other readers intro to space exploration

By Terri Schlichenmeyer
On April 27, 2015

Along with an education on the universe, the book gives a biographical account of
astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Nighttime is a popular time of day. Some people choose to hang out with friends after dark. Some go to movies, listen to music, or just go to sleep. But you, as soon as it’s dark, lay down somewhere quiet and look up because that’s where the stars are. In the new book “Explore the Cosmos like Neil deGrasse Tyson,” by CAP Saucier, you can learn how to decipher the stars.

Born a few days before NASA began, Tyson likes to say he’s the same age as the government agency. By the time he was nine years old, he was “in love with the night sky” and at 11, he knew he wanted to be an astrophysicist. He was so fascinated by planets and stars that he almost got in trouble with a telescope as a teenager.  

Tyson’s parents both stressed that skipping college was not an option, so, though he wasn’t a great student in high school, Tyson went to Harvard, then to the University of Texas, and then to Columbia University.

Why, you might ask, didn’t he become an astronaut?

Back then the program wasn’t open to African Americans, so being an astronaut never even entered his mind. But that never stopped his admiration for the night sky.

He’s not alone. More than 2,500 years ago, the Greeks looked upward and tried to understand what they saw. Other cultures studied the heavens, too; Ptolemy tried to count the stars and stopped at a thousand. In recent years, we’ve learned more about the cosmos than ever before, but there’s still so much we don’t know.

To study the stars, you need to understand light and physics. You’ll need to know about galaxies and Nebulas, which look different and have descriptive names. You’ll want to find out the truth about black holes, and why you never, ever want to be “spaghettified.”

And above all, says Tyson, stay in school, learn math, and go for the best education you can get. Even if you don’t end up studying stars, that’s always a good path to take.

I was pleasantly surprised and a little daunted by “Explore the Cosmos like Neil deGrasse Tyson.” The delight comes in the biography part of this book.

Author CAP Saucier lets us explore the life of Neil deGrasse Tyson, from his childhood to his fascinating career today, and what he thinks about the future of space exploration. Along the way, we’re given an education on the universe and what’s in it.

That part, however, can be formidable; the language is more advanced than I would have liked to see in a book for middle schoolers. Kids who tackle those sections will need an above average understanding of astroscience.

I think maybe a science-loving 9-year-old could try this book, but it’s really better suited for someone older. For a sharp child with their head in the stars, “Explore the Cosmos like Neil deGrasse Tyson” is pretty cosmic.

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