By Wook Kim
Updated March 17, 2020 at 02:47 AM EDT

Seeing in the Dark

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If it’s his skills as a scholar that allow Ferris to present amateur astronomy as lively and exciting, then it’s his gift for expressive prose that makes these nocturnal pursuits seem gripping and romantic. Using personal experience to illuminate his lucid science lessons and poignant biographical profiles, the author has created something old-fashioned out of something new, a Baedeker to a dark, beautiful, and mysterious realm. And we can forgive his lack of journalistic detachment: Whether describing a rising moon (changing ”like a diva into costumes of ermine and silver”) or the pale glow of the Andromeda galaxy (seen as ”the campfires of a Roman legion viewed from a distant mountain”), Ferris reminds us that the root of amateur is amator, Latin for ”to love.”

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Seeing in the Dark

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