As I have been trying to come to some conclusions about star formation (or the lack thereof) in the nearby (500-600 light years) dusty Molecular Cloud that we call the Coalsack, I have been trying to come to grips with some of the obscure jargon and conventions used in the field of Star Formation studies.
The last time I seriously researched Professional Astronomers' knowledge about star formation (probably 10 years ago) , I found that the terminology that was used was not standardized,
and - worse still - that both the jargon and the concepts rapidly changed with time
Unfortunately, the situation is still the same today.
( I have another 15 papers on star formation.....just downloaded....time to get studying!!!)
If you want an up-to-date semi-popular level book on Star Formation, "In Darkness Born", by Martin Cohen
(1988)(Cambridge University Press) can no longer be recommended
, as the whole way that astronomers think about star formation has changed since this book was written. I enjoyed this book a couple of decades ago, but it is not in any way an introduction to star formation studies as they are done today
. It is still an excellent read for the intermediate-to-advanced level amateur, but it is very far
from being up-to-date.
Much more up-to-date is "The Origin of Stars" , by Michael D. Smith
(2004), Imperial College Press or World Scientific Publishing.
I find that this book has definitions, jargon, and concepts that actually do relate to Star Formation research as it is done today
. However, it is at a higher level than Cohen's book. A bit of University or advanced High School physics, and/or an ability to think in a physical or mathematical manner is an asset in reading this book, but an advanced-level amateur astronomer should be able to understand quite a lot of this book.....if she/he persists
. (There is a lot of descriptive prose in this book, but there are also sections which require substantial knowledge of physics and algebra). This is probably a hard book to read for the majority of amateur astronomers, who may well find themselves having to look up (and puzzle over) physics, concepts, etc., in other books, but the rewards
of this struggle
will be in proportion to the amount of thinking
that is provoked.....you will end up knowing a lot more
about Star Formation than if you had read a book designed for a general readership. Smith's book is definitely a clear and cogent introduction, which is useful at readership levels up to "first few years of university", and it is also useful reading for professional scientists. The question is, should you read a more basic book than this and thereby take the risk of missing out on necessary details about Star Formation? ("easier book = dumber reader at the end")
Note: The amazon copies seem to be very expensive....so try elsewhere.
The changes in theoretical underpinnings and astronomical technology since Cohen's book have been so radical that this field of knowledge is in the middle of a revolution. Unfortunately, readers of Cohen's book will not realize this if they are new to the star formation game.
"The Birth of Stars and Planets" by John Bally and Bo Reipurth (Cambridge University Press, 2006)
, looks like an easier read than Smith's book, but I have never read Bally and Reipurth. This book is at the semi-popular or general-readership level, or so the advertising states. See the preview of this book at //books.google.com.au
My initial impression (which could be mistaken) is that Bally & Reipurth do try to explain things fully, and don't oversimplify. (The glossing over of complexity in popular-level science books is notorious for increasing "readability" but greatly decreasing the understanding that is achieved by the reader!)
If you go to:
and then click on "lecture notes", and then scroll down the page to the "Origin of Solar Systems" lectures , you will find two sets of excellent lecture notes dealing with the early phases of star formation:
"Cloud Collapse"(part 1 and 2) by Tadesse and Jockers
"Early Phases of Protostars"(in three parts) by Dasi, Thalmann, and Lee
The ridiculously complex terminology used in studies of the Interstellar Medium and Star Formation is well illustrated by this diagram reproduced from some recent lecture notes, which tries to categorize the various components of the molecular gas found in Galaxies:
No wonder the file-name is called "Interstellar Medium nightmare" !!!