Roy A(rthur) Gallant Harry C. Stubbs - Essay

Harry C. Stubbs

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Mr. Gallant's work [in Fires in the Sky: The Birth and Death of Stars] is historical in nature, and he goes deeply into the reasoning which connects observation with opinion. As a rule his statements are cautiously qualified, but occasionally he states as fact things which are still very dubious. Epsilon Aurigae's invisible companion may actually be, for example, an infrared giant star larger than the orbit of Saturn; but as long as ago as 1960 there were at least two other published explanations for the eclipse data, and I doubt very much that at this moment any astronomer would care to risk his reputation with a definite choice among these or even claim that one of them is probably right. A few errors appear on the galleys, which are not merely typographical. The Crab Nebula's width is about 4.2 light years, not 42 (though accompanying data would let the reader catch this slip for himself). Less obvious is the half-life of Rubidium 87, given in one of the appendixes as six million years. It is actually about 10,000 times as long. Even if these mistakes appear in the finished book, it will be well worth reading—a good, clear summary of current astronomical thought.

Harry C. Stubbs "Views on Science Books: 'Fires in the Sky: The Birth and Death of Stars'," in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright © 1979 by The Horn Book, Inc., Boston), Vol. LV, No. 2, April, 1979, p. 214.