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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $117.00
  • February 2013
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-91878-6
  • 856 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

21st Century Astronomy

Full Fourth Edition


with Ebook and SmartWork Registration Card

Laura Kay (Author, Barnard College), Stacy Palen (Author, Weber State University), Bradford Smith (Author, University of Hawaii, emeritus), George Blumenthal (Author, University of California, Santa Cruz)


Teaches students to think like scientists.

Authors Laura Kay and Stacy Palen have developed pedagogy that helps students understand the process of science, and how physical principles are used to discover the origins of the universe. The authors emphasize how we know what we know in the figures, text, and end-of-chapter material.


Think like a scientist

• The Fourth Edition explores the process of science by explaining how we know what we know rather than depicting science as “facts.”
• Process of Science figures illustrate key discoveries and encourage students to visualize how science is done, while Process of Science Guided Inquiry Assignments in SmartWork help students think through how the scientific method was used to discover a major principle covered in the chapter.
• Unanswered Questions boxes at the end of each chapter pose questions that have yet to be answered and demonstrate that science is a process, we don’t know everything, and what we do know can change.

Origins of the universe as a theme

Most chapters begin with an “origins” question to hook the reader and ends with a section that demonstrates how the material in the chapter can help us understand the origins of the universe. 

SmartWork challenges students to apply knowledge

Explorations and Process of Science assignments are designed to engage students by having them work through a multistep activity. These assignments directly support the text, facilitate learning through practice, and are easy to assign. 

    PART I Introduction to Astronomy
    Chapter 1. Why Learn Astronomy?
    Chapter 2. Patterns in the Sky—Motions of Earth
    Chapter 3. Motion of Astronomical Bodies
    Chapter 4. Gravity and Orbits—A Celestial Ballet
    Chapter 5. Light
    Chapter 6. The Tools of the Astronomer

    PART II The Solar System
    Chapter 7. The Birth and Evolution of Planetary Systems
    Chapter 8. The Terrestrial Planets and Earth’s Moon
    Chapter 9. Atmospheres of the Terrestrial Planets
    Chapter 10. Worlds of Gas and Liquid—The Giant Planets
    Chapter 11. Planetary Adornments—Moons and Rings
    Chapter 12. Dwarf Planets and Small Solar System Bodies

    Part III Stars and Stellar Evolution
    Chapter 13. Taking the Measure of Stars
    Chapter 14. Our Sun
    Chapter 15. Star Formation and the Interstellar Medium
    Chapter 16. Stars in the Slow Lane—Low-Mass Stellar Evolution
    Chapter 17. Live Fast, Die Young—High-Mass Stellar Evolution
    Chapter 18. Relativity and Black Holes

    Part IV Galaxies, the Universe, and Cosmology
    Chapter 19. Our Expanding Universe
    Chapter 20. Galaxies
    Chapter 21. The Milky Way—A Normal Spiral Galaxy
    Chapter 22. Modern Cosmology
    Chapter 23. The Origin of Structure
    Chapter 24. Life