“Astronomers, like burglars and jazz musicians, operate best at night.” – Miles Kington

Opening the telescope dome during my very first night of observing at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona! Credit: Phil Massey

A batch of FINISHED hardcover copies of The Last Stargazers arrived in the mail last week; they’re beautiful!! The design team at Sourcebooks really did an extraordinary job with everything from the jacket art to the fonts to the gorgeous spray of stars on the cover. You can read all about the cover art here, and check out the awesome photos (also available on the book’s Instagram page):

For folks who’ve been asking about how to get signed-but-still-socially-distant copies, I’ve got some bookplates (custom-designed art that can be pasted inside the cover) coming in the mail and will be signing away for the next few weeks. We’re also exploring options for signing some books in person at Elliott Bay Books here in Seattle as part of my August 3rd launch event. Finally, keep an eye on future newsletter and social media updates for future news on how to potentially get a signed copy!

Book Thoughts: Behind the Scenes of Science

At the start of 2020 my husband Dave and I began training for the 206-mile Seattle to Portland bike ride, hoping to complete the ride in one day come mid-July. Sadly, the ride was eventually canceled due to COVID-19, but we decided to keep up a heavy cycling schedule anyway. Between the pandemic and Seattle’s famous rainy weather this has meant putting in a LOT of miles indoors, with our bikes hooked up to resistance trainers and our eyes hooked on the TV.

One of my favorite sources of entertainment during long indoor rides has been the directors’ commentaries and making-of reels for some of my favorite movies. I’ve watched every bit of behind-the-scenes footage there is for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and can’t get enough of filmmakers’ stories-behind-the-stories. It occurred to me one day, about forty tired miles into one of these bike rides, that this enthusiasm is what drove me to write The Last Stargazers!

Seeing scores of enthusiastic and passionate (and unapologetically geeky) people going all-in together on a project feels very familiar to me as a scientist! In movies this might mean perfecting a Shakespearean performance or putting the finishing touches on a foam-rubber battle axe. In astronomy the behind-the-scenes stories might involve ongoing battles with swarms of moths invading your telescope dome or figuring out how to stop confusing thirsty ravens with colliding black holes. We all enjoy the escapism of a good film or the otherworldly beauty of a great astronomy photograph. Still, the whole thing gets a bit more tangible and a lot more real when we recognize ourselves in the blooper reels of exhaustion-fueled giggle fits at 2AM or jury-rigged solutions to thorny problems that are suppose to remain invisible behind the show or the science.

The scaffolds and wires inside a daytime dome at Kitt Peak: all the moving parts that make astronomy possible!

In the first chapter of The Last Stargazers I write about how it feels to stand in a telescope dome during the daytime, and how much it has always reminded me of standing in an empty theater before a show. Daylight filters into a dark cavernous space through the open doors. Crew members slip quietly in and out toting cables and juggling tools. The whole atmosphere evokes a feeling of busy waiting with a little undercurrent of excitement, preparing for night to fall and for the (literal) stars to arrive.

What’s next for The Last Stargazers?

Preorder information for the audiobook of The Last Stargazers will be available soon! I’ll also be posting new event announcements through this newsletter and the book’s Events page as soon as we finalize plans! You can also read past newsletter updates on the book’s website, follow me on my Goodreads and Amazon author pages, and read a Kindle excerpt of The Last Stargazers today!