You know, most of the book projects you take on are long, arduous projects. The book I wrote this year about comets was not. “This is the shortest contract to-published-book I’ve ever done,” says my editor at Cambridge University Press, Vince Higgs. Cambridge has just published the book nine months after we signed a contract, and I spent all of three months writing the text.
Of course, all this happened in anticipation of Comet ISON, which a month from now will be brightening tremendously. But the book, COMETS! Visitors from Deep Space (208 pp., paper, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2013, $24.99, ISBN 978–1–107–62277–7), is a general read about all aspects of comets past and present, with a great deal of science, history, observation, and photography. Check out the Cambridge University Press page on the book.
The book contains nine chapters, which cover an overview of comets, Great Comets, the physical nature of comets, comets of the modern era, comets in human culture, where comets live in the solar system, the expanding science of comets, observing comets, and imaging comets. The book has 16 color plates and 68 black and white photos.
My old friend and comet discoverer David Levy was gracious enough to contribute a foreword to the book. In it, he says: “Eicher’s book brings the magical world of comets to life. It is not an arcane mathematical textbook but a celebration of these slowly wandering objects.”
Another good friend, comet expert Gary Kronk — author of the magnificent reference work Cometography — says of the work, “David J. Eicher has written a wonderful, up-to-date book on the history and science of comets. The book is written in a conversational style, with occasional humor thrown in, and is not too technical. The result is a very enjoyable read for everyone.”
Of the book, the publisher says: “Join David J. Eicher in this fast-paced and entertaining journey through the history, present, and future of these important yet mysterious cosmic bodies. From ancient times, humans have been fascinated by ‘broom stars’ and ‘blazing scimitars’ lighting up the sky and moving against the fixed background of the stars. The Great Comets of our time still receive in-depth attention — ISON, Hale-Bopp, Hyakutake, West, and others — while recent spacecraft encounters offer amazing insight into the earliest days of the solar system.
“In this guide, you will discover the cutting-edge science of what comets are, how they behave, where they reside, how groups of comets are related, and much more. The author carefully explores the ideas relating comets and life on Earth — and the danger posed by impacts. He finishes with practical how-to techniques, tips, and tricks of observing comets and even capturing your own images of them successfully.”