Now that the human race is no longer earthbound, and with space colonies projected for the near future, we look to the stars with a new urgency. In this informative book, Isaac Asimov discusses the stars “of our neighborhood” and in particular the third brightest and the nearest—Alpha Centauri.

The dramatic story of how the distances of the stars are determined is climaxed by the revelation that Alpha Centauri is actually a triple star—and the brightest of the three Alpha Centauri stars is virtually the twin of our Sun.

Touching on such portentous questions as which stars have planets with life on them, Dr. Asimov tells how we find out, how we reach them, and where Alpha Centauri fits in.

In this book as in Jupiter, the Largest Planet, Dr. Asimov puts the science of astronomy within the reach of interested readers with no previous knowledge of the subject, presenting all the known facts about Alpha Centauri enriched with his own brilliant speculations.

The second book in the series of astronomy texts for teenagers that started with Jupiter, the Largest Planet, this book has all of the earlier volume’s strengths and lacks its main weakness. Again, we have a thorough survey of some of the basic properties of stars as they can be observed, properties such as magnitude, spectral class, and distance. There are lots and lots of tables, so that the book is a handy reference volume. And, unlike Jupiter, the Largest Planet, the contents of Alpha Centauri, the Nearest Star have not been seriously undermined by the Voyager probes.

The overall result is a delightful read and a useful reference which I would without hesitation recommend to someone who wanted to know about the stars.

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