Accidental Astronomy

How Random Discoveries Shape the Science of Space


By Chris Lintott

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$39.00 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 11, 2024. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

A "riveting real-life Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (The Telegraph), told "with an engaging voice, a diverting sense of humor, and a humble awe for the wonders of the universe" (Wall Street Journal), shows why so much of astronomy comes down to looking up and lucking out

If you learn about the scientific method, you learn that first we hypothesize about something we’ve experienced, and then we look for more of it. This works well enough—but what if you are interested in studying a heretofore unknown comet or supernova? That is the essential problem of the astronomer: the most important discoveries happen without notice!  
Indeed, as Chris Lintott argues in Accidental Astronomy, luck defines astronomy. Lintott explores the ways in which happenstance shapes how we investigate the sky. To catch a glimpse of a comet, asteroid, or even a sign of alien life, we must be in the right place at the right time. And if we can’t be there, we must have a team of professionals and amateurs, across the globe, ready to spring into action at a moment’s—or a night’s—notice. For any astronomer, regardless of their experience or resources, the first step to discovery is the same: to stare at the sky and wait.  
A celebration of astronomy, stargazing, and cosmic discovery, Accidental Astronomy offers an irresistible window into how luck defines our knowledge of the skies.  
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  • “Mr. Lintott conducts this breezy tour with an engaging voice, a diverting sense of humor and a humble awe for the wonders of the universe.” 
    Marcia Bartusiak, Wall Street Journal
  • “A captivating and approachable narrative. The book’s footnotes are a particular highlight, reminiscent of novelist Terry Pratchett’s witty and humorous writing style. This title is sure to educate and delight general readers and astronomy enthusiasts and will make an excellent addition to any science collection.”
    Library Journal
  • “Lintott’s awe-inspiring reflections on the universe’s unknowable origin and development is fused with a distinctly human idea, that many of the most profound discoveries in astronomy were not made by 'deliberate moves,' but rather by 'stumbling accidents.'"
  • “A riveting real-life Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… an anecdotal tour of the universe, glimpsed through eccentric observations, tantalizing mysteries and discoveries stumbled upon by happenstance.”
    Telegraph (UK)
  • “An enjoyable tour of astronomical discoveries.”
    Daily Mail (UK)
  • “[Lintott’s] boundless enthusiasm for everything cosmic makes it hard to put this book away once you start reading.”
    BBC Sky at Night Magazine (UK)
  • “A whirlwind tour of wondrous celestial phenomena and space science… an entertaining and enlightening read.”
    Idler (UK)
  • “An entertaining astronomical miscellany.”
  • “Stimulating… an illuminating look at chance’s role in science.”
    Publishers Weekly
  • “highly approachable and elegantly explained… This is a splendid book”
    The Spectator
  • “Chris Lintott has an eye for the most entertaining astronomical stories and the experience to take us behind the scenes. Highly recommended.”
    Tristan Gooley, author of The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs
  • “Grab a front row seat! Lintott’s Accidental Astronomy is wonderfully engaging, full to bursting with remarkable, celestial tales of the unexpected.”
    Ananyo Bhattacharya, author of The Man from the Future
  • “A fascinating look at the strange and alien side of space from a wonderfully human astronomer.”
    Dr. Lucy Rogers, author of It’s Only Rocket Science
  • “Lintott reminds us of the importance of the unexpected: we cannot discover what we are not prepared to see. An accessible and witty guide to how serendipity shaped our understanding of the cosmos and might still do so in the future.”
    Roberto Trotta, author of Starborn
  • “A scientific tour de force of the weird and wonderful. Lintott brings these discoveries to life by telling the stories of the people behind the research, diving into the science history, and by sprinkling in a few joyful personal anecdotes. An absolutely delightful read.”
    Dr. Becky Smethurst, author of A Brief History of Black Holes

On Sale
Jun 11, 2024
Page Count
320 pages
Basic Books

Chris Lintott

About the Author

Chris Lintott is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford, after a stint at Adler Planetarium, Chicago, and the winner of the American Astronomical Society’s prestigious Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize. He is best known as co-presenter of the BBC’s long-running Sky at Night program. He is the author of The Crowd and the Cosmos and coauthor of Bang! He lives in Oxford, UK.

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