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Top 5 books on the light shed by astrophysics, selected by Dr Emma Chapman

The physicist from Imperial College London selects five books about human discovery and the wonders of the universe.

Imperial College London physicist Dr Emma Chapman, author of First Light: Switching on Stars at the Dawn of Time, selects five books about the wonders of the universe.

1. 8 Little Planets by Chris Ferrie, illustrated by Lizzy Doyle

It’s never too early to get kids excited about science, and this simple and fun counting rhyme about the Solar System is a welcome change from reading the same old fairytale.

2. The Last Stargazers by Emily Levesque

These days we remotely control telescopes, but imagine a time when to observe the skies you had to climb slippery ladders and sit overnight in a freezing telescope dome. Levesque writes an homage to the days when astronomy was a hands-on activity.

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3. Is Anyone Out There? by Frank Drake and Dava Sobel

Not all telescopes are long tubes. Here, pioneer Drake writes a love letter to radio astronomy and tells us about a career spent listening to the stars in the hope of hearing a message from extraterrestrial life.

4. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections edited by Katherine Haramundanis

It was hard enough to be a woman in the 1920s, let alone a woman astronomer upending modern wisdom that the sun was just a hot Earth. For an entertaining example of how the scientific world deals with change (spoiler alert: not well), look no further.

First Light: Switching on Stars at the Dawn of Time by Emma Chapman is out now (Bloomsbury Sigma)

5. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

You cannot beat this for its infectious sense of humour, all the while infusing the wonder of space and the ideas that might flourish in it. Lose yourself in the galactic travels of Arthur Dent and Trillian the astrophysicist.

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You can buy First Light: Switching on Stars at the Dawn of Time from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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