9th June 2000 at 01:00
ADVANCED PHYSICS READERS: Astrophysics. By Christopher Bishop. John Murray, pound;12.99.

Astrophysics is a delightful book. It is not a traditional textbook, but part of a series written to support A-level physics students studying topics that are developing rapidly, such as particle physics. It is a clever mixture of popular science book and more detached textbook.

An introduction sets the scene with an impressive use of photographs, such as those of solar flares, that is continued throughout the book.

Chapters follow on the measurement of distance to stars, and their spectra and composition. The way stars are born, evolve and ie is covered in the second half of the book.

The author assumes that the reader has a good understanding of core A-level physics, and without it the mathematical sections of the book would be quite difficult.

Each chapter has a set of questions with numerical answers at the back of the book. The final chapter looks at cosmology and the questions that remain such as 'Where did all the energy come from?' Students will find this an accessible book because it tells the story of astrophysics. No physics department should be without one.

Helen Reynolds is head of physics at Gosford Hill school, Kidlington, Oxfordshire

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