Women Astronomers: Recent Books Explore Science, Life Stories

From astronomer Maria Mitchell to astronaut Mae Jemison, women have made significant contributions to astronomy. Yet, women’s achievements in astronomy too often go undervalued or remain unknown. These recent books by women astronomers provide the opportunity to learn their life stories and see the world through their profound lens. 

Like so many future astronomers, Emily Levesque found herself fondly gazing up at the night sky as a youngster. In The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy's Vanishing Explorers, Levesque pens an ode to the unending passion and painstaking labor taken on by astronomers past and present. She shares the obstacles—from menacing weather to cave-dwelling critters—she and her peers encounter while studying the stars.

The epitome of being so close—yet so far, our neighboring planet Mars remains a frontier inspiring our curiosity and imagination. In the sweeping The Sirens of Mars, Sarah Stewart Scott shares her experience as a planetary scientist studying for signs of life on Mars. Scott reflects on the lineage of astronomers, from Galileo to Percival, who have asked the same questions, and she ponders the parallels of our world and the Red Planet.

Sara Seagar lives a fulfilling life as a wife, mother of two and MIT exoplanet specialist. But an unforeseen tragedy and medical diagnosis follow her into her midlife, upending her emotional stability in more ways than one. The Smallest Lights In The Universe: A Memoir is an absorbing account of Seagar's poignant journey to restore her sense of self through her cherished work and a new community of friends.

In The Human Cosmos: Civilization And The Stars, science journalist Jo Marchant gracefully surveys the evolving, encompassing nature of humankind’s connection with the celestial bodies from antiquity to now. After all, the mysteries of deep space have held artists, philosophers, politicians, huntsmen and clergy in as much wonder as astronomers. Marchant’s fabulous work takes the reader on a historic voyage examining our rapport with the starry skies.

What other books by or about women in astronomy deserve a spotlight? Let me know in the comments.

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