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Fire in the Sky

Fire in the Sky
Comets and Meteors, the Decisive Centuries, in British Art and Science

$170.00

  • Date Published: February 1998
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521630603

$170.00
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About the Authors
  • Fire in the Sky collects many representations of comets and meteors in Britain during the eighteen and nineteenth century when a large number of works inspired by these celestial objects were produced. Over 100 photographs--and two sections of luscious color plates--beautifully portray the inspired output of some of the world's most talented artists, fully capturing the phenomenon that obsessed not only a nation but an era as well. Olson and Pasachoff reveal the many different ways that comets and meteors have appeared in paintings and literature and link these works to the achievements of British science in the wake of Newton and Halley. They also examine the different symbolism that writers and artists have attached to these spectacular objects. Throughout, Fire in the Sky conveys how the development of new technologies, and the burgeoning interest of the general public in science and art, dovetailed with an interest in nature and a strong literary tradition of comet and meteor symbolism. Beautifully illustrated and packed with engaging stories, this book will delight anyone with an interest in the art and astronomy of comets.

    • Topic of widespread and current interest, especially following Hale-Bopp; comets link us to the origins of the solar system
    • Beautifully illustrated: over 100 illustrations, two colour sections
    • Unique book, no other book considers the subject matter
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Art historian Roberta Olson and astronomer Jay Pasachoff have combined to produce a lushly illustrated and very readable book that merges the engaging story of the development of English 18th and 19th century comet astronomy with the art that those astronomical discoveries either produced or inspired. The result is a feast for both the eye and the mind." Meteoritics

    "...this book is not only eminently readable, erudite and full of insight, but also skillfully weaves together the conversion of comets from mere celestial wanderers to objects of considerable astrophysical interest, the development of the public's interest in comets, and the advances in art as paintings and prints eventually competed with chromolithographs and photographs. The authors and publishers must be congratulated on bringing this fascinating symbiosis between science, politics and art to the attention of a wider public." New Scientist

    "My first reaction to this book...was 'What a fascinating subject!'; my second to admire the apparent thoroughness and scholarship with which the authors had approached their interdisciplinary subject, and the delightful way in which the publishers had enabled them to illustrate their chosen field in a comprehensive manner." The Observatory

    "...skillfully weaves together the conversion of comets from mere celestial wanderers to objects of considerable astrophysical interest, the development of the public's interest in comets, and the advances in art as paintings and prints competed with chromolithographs and photographs. The authors and publishers must be congratulated for bringing this fascinating symbiosis between science, politics and art to the attention of a wider public." New Scientist

    "Fire in the Sky is a truly amazing book. The book's smooth transitions from science to art are done with skill and grace. This book will be very useful for innovative teachers who have an understanding of art and science (or both). An elementary school teacher could develop an innovative curriculum for merging science and art in the fourth and fifth grades; students could be mesmerized and their learning expanded by such a technique. Anyone who enjoys astronomy should have Fire in the Sky in their library." Paul K. Grogger, Science Books & Films

    "Art historians, amateur and professional astronomers, and the general public will find Fire in the Sky a feast of celestial images." Orion S 288

    "Overall, this is a beautifully produced book, with many fine illustrations which few astronomers will have seen before...Olson and Pasachoff have produced an interesting and at times provocative commentary..." Astronomy Now

    "...this book's biggest attraction is...the lavish meal of full-colour images it contains." The Times Higher Education Supplement

    "More than 160 reproductions of paintings, photographs, and art-objects with comets and meteors as their subjects stud this book's pages...Fire in the Sky's illustrations chronicle the development of British visual art concerning comets and meteors from the late Renaissance to our own century. Across the same period, Olson and Pasachoff trace the transformation of human understanding of meteors and comets, from a superstitious regard of them as volatile omens of disaster or propitious births to the modern understanding of them as predictable mechanisms in the clockwork universe." Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 1998
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521630603
    • length: 383 pages
    • dimensions: 261 x 210 x 26 mm
    • weight: 1.215kg
    • contains: 135 b/w illus. 30 colour illus.
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction
    1. Prelude: the beginning of telescopic astronomy and the background of British astronomy and artistic traditions
    2. The heavens on fire: the eighteenth century
    3. The comet-crazed century opens
    4. The triumph of realism
    5. Donati's comet, the watershed
    6. The origin of comet (and meteor) photography
    7. The triumph of the imagination
    8. Comets and the new century
    Epilogue: comets and the new millennium
    Appendices
    List of illustrations
    Bibliography
    Index.

  • Authors

    Roberta J. M. Olson, Wheaton College

    Jay M. Pasachoff, Williams College, Massachusetts

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