The Last Stargazers
An astronomer pulls back the curtain on the ‘rigors and delights and jerry-rigging absurdity’ of the past century of observational astronomy, while looking ahead to a future in which robots, not humans, peer skyward in pursuit of the Universe’s secrets.
Emily Levesque's 15-year career as an observational astronomer has been full of surprises, hardships, worldwide travel and awe-inspiring discoveries. She’s shared that road with a unique cohort, a group of astronomers braving mountain passes, subzero temperatures, poisonous or otherwise hostile fauna and flora, and the pulse-quickening technical difficulties of telescopes the size and weight of apartment buildings. In THE LAST STARGAZERS, she weaves together the incredible episodes and experiences of over a hundred astronomers and observatory employees to build a narrative history of observational astronomy, offer a tour d’horizon of the research behind our current understanding of the Universe and reveal the transformative developments in the field’s immediate future.
That future includes the rise of robotic telescopes such as the LSST – a triumph of modern technology, able to map the Universe in unprecedented detail and generate dozens of terabytes of data in a single night. The LSST will usher in a new age rich in data and potential discoveries, but it will also signal the end of a certain type of human discovery and creativity that has been with us since Galileo.
THE LAST STARGAZERS tells these human stories not simply to preserve them but also to remind us that our ingenuity and curiosity should not be wholly sacrificed in the pursuit of gleaming columns of big data. Levesque’s own story shows us that brilliant scientists can do more than move the wheel of scientific progress forward; they can also inspire future generations to take up the effort.