Fully updated second edition for undergraduate students in astronomy and astrophysics.
Supernovae occur when a star blows up: in its death throes, a star gone supernova "becomes as bright as an entire galaxy." University of Texas astrophysicist Wheeler is one of the world's experts on such stellar explosions and the forces behind them. This accessible, painstaking work of astronomical exposition brings to a general readership Wheeler's knowledge of stars, supernovae and their cousins. The first chapter covers the life cycles of "ordinary" single stars, which coalesce, burn, turn yellow, then red, then dark. Wheeler then gets to the weird stuff--to binary stars, which orbit each other in pairs, and to white dwarves, accretion disks, pulsars and the density of the universe. From models of supernovae, the volume proceeds to specific observed explosions, especially to SN 1987A, which emerged from the Large Magellanic Cloud in February of that year and brought with it experimental confirmation of all sorts of theories. The most famous end-stage product of a star's demise is the black hole, a locus of gravity so dense nothing that goes in can ever come out. Wheeler moves from black holes into space-time and gee-whiz cosmology and to supernova-related theories about the universe's expansion; these issues have been set forth in a glut of popular books, and though Wheeler's exegeses are useful and clear, it's the star-level science here that really shines. This book evolved from a longstanding and popular course taught by Wheeler: its careful explication and organization, designed to attract readers with no knowledge of physics, are welcome by-products of its collegiate origin. 33 halftones and 15 line drawings. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|