In our Proud to Publish series we talk to our editors about the books they were most proud to publish, commission or work on in the past year. Read our interview below with Dr. Ramon Khanna, Executive Editor Science Books, in which he tells us about the book he is most proud to have published in 2020 and what makes this book stand out.
I’m most proud of publishing Astronomy’s Quest for Sharp Images, Pierre Léna’s latest general interest book in which he gives an account of how astronomy achieved this fantastic sharpness of images with modern ground-based telescopes that we otherwise know only from space telescopes.
Why is this your personal 2020 highlight?
Written in the style of a personal journal, this general interest book tells the author’s own story of the development of adaptive optics for ground-based telescopes. The book is mainly a translation of the French original Une Histoire de flou: Miroirs, trous noirs et autres mondes published in 2019 by Editions Le Pommier. The title means A History of Blur: Mirrors, black holes and other worlds. So the book describes the long but successful struggle of instrument builders against blurred astronomical images. Blurred images are useless if you want to take pictures of stars’ orbits in the centre of our Galaxy or of planets orbiting other stars. Blur is the astronomers’ enemy, caused mainly by atmospheric disturbance, turbulence in the air, smearing a point-like light source into a disk-like image showing no more details smaller than that smeared disk. This is typically stuff that professional and advanced amateur astronomers need to know about. But this jump in optical resolution that was achieved at the end of this struggle against The Blur is so breathtaking that it also fascinates armchair astronomers and anybody else seeing astronomical pictures taken by modern large telescopes like the Very Large Telescope (VLT) run by The European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile. Remember James Bond – Quantum of Solace where they blow up the VLT guest house on Paranal?
There is no other book that lets the reader experience this “war on blur” that scientists and engineers fought for several decades but, having a vision and using their ingenuity, won for mankind’s benefit.
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