Finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize


Good Reviews: 22

Bad Reviews: 1

Read an Excerpt from THE ALCHEMY OF THE HEAVENS!


The Milky Way Galaxy--home of the Earth, Sun, and countless other stars--has long been an object of human fascination. To Australia's aborigines the Milky Way was the smoke from a heavenly campfire, while the Chinese considered it to be a river separating two young lovers. More recently, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, astronomers brought their telescopes to bear on the Milky Way, hoping to discern its shape and map the stars that fill its boundaries.

Yet as astronomer Ken Croswell points out in The Alchemy of the Heavens, it's been within the last fifty years that scientists have made the most stunning discoveries about the Galaxy we call home. With a remarkable ability to make difficult concepts clear, Dr. Croswell skillfully leads the reader through a detailed survey of current thinking on the Milky Way. He reveals, for example, that the Milky Way probably formed as many earlier galaxies smashed together; that many of the elements on the Earth, including the iron and oxygen that course through our bodies, were cast into space by exploding supernovae; that in all likelihood there is a massive black hole at the center of the Galaxy, with nearly 3 million times more mass than the Sun; and that the Milky Way's oldest stars preserve the elements created in the big bang, thereby serving as fossils of the universe's earliest days.

Along the way, Dr. Croswell also introduces us to the brilliant astronomers who made some of these discoveries, and recounts the fierce debates that have driven forward our understanding of the Galaxy. Finally, and perhaps most important, we see how knowledge about the Galaxy in particular can give us tremendous insight into the origins of the universe as a whole.

"Ken Croswell has done the impossible: provided a synthesis of our knowledge of the Galaxy that is not only accessible to anyone who wants to know where we came from but will also be invaluable to the scientists working in the field. This is no run-of-the-mill popular science book."
--Marcus Chown, former science editor, New Scientist, and author of Afterglow of Creation and The Magic Furnace

"An eloquently written account of the great story of our Galaxy, the Milky Way. Clear, concise, and up-to-date, this work stands head and shoulders above other popular-level books about the Galaxy."
--Jeff Kanipe, author of A Skywatcher's Year

"Milky Way research has come a long way in the last few decades, and Croswell excels in conveying the excitement of these discoveries."
--Laurence A. Marschall, author of The Supernova Story


The New York Times Book Review:

"The Milky Way Galaxy is a celebration of diversity, abounding with hundreds of billions of stars, each different from every other. The Milky Way's brightest stars emit more light in a single day than the Sun will generate for the next two thousand years, while the faintest stars glow so feebly that if one of them replaced the Sun, noon would be darker than a moonlit night....The Milky Way's oldest stars date back to the Galaxy's formation, 10 to 15 billion years ago; its youngest are younger than you or I." Thus begins Ken Croswell's engaging account of the continuing discovery of our Galaxy and of its evolution from its beginnings into the complex assemblage we observe today: hydrogen and helium were born in the cataclysmic explosion that started it all, the unheard big bang, but the phosphorous of our bones and the iron of our blood came later, through the celestial alchemy that gradually converted some of the light gases of the first three minutes of the universe's life into heavier elements.

Croswell has a wonderful knack for the apt analogy: "Density promotes nuclear reactions, because the greater the density, the more frequently nuclei collide---just as busy streets have more traffic accidents than quiet ones." And: "When a large mass, such as a satellite galaxy, moves through a sea of smaller objects, it is slowed down by their gravity, just as celebrities are slowed down when they walk through a throng of fans."

Describing how our Galaxy may have been formed by the amalgamation of dozens of small galaxies smashing together, Croswell notes: "If this theory was right, the Galaxy's origin had not the grandeur of a classical symphony but the reckless fury of a rock concert." He echoes one of the greatest modern astronomy popularizers, Sir Arthur Eddington, who, musing in 1927 on the interior of a star, wrote, "I am afraid the knockabout comedy of modern atomic physics is not very tender towards our esthetic ideals. The stately drama of stellar evolution turns out to be more like the hair-breadth escapades on the films. The music of the spheres has almost a suggestion of--jazz."

Croswell, a freelance science writer, was trained as an astronomer. Like the best of today's astronomy popularizers--Timothy Ferris, Michael Lemonick, Dennis Overbye--he includes lively, sometimes controversial first-person narratives from scientists who have forged our modern views of the Milky Way. He relates the pique of the British astronomer Fred Hoyle when he did not share the Nobel prize with William Fowler for their work on nucleosynthesis. He also records that, contrary to most popular accounts, Hoyle--who was a proponent of an opposing theory--coined the expression "big bang" not as a pejorative but simply as a convenient handle.

What is really distinctive about The Alchemy of the Heavens is its level of detail. Its rich explanation of the Galaxy's various stellar populations and the several different ways in which the elements could have come into being surpasses even those in elementary textbooks.
--Owen Gingerich

The Observatory:

I got off to a bad start with this book. Opening it for the first time, I chanced upon the acknowledgements, where I found Ken Croswell wallowing in a tedious list of first-magnitude stars that had provided him with "nighttime inspiration" during his labours. I was also told, in similar detail, what music he had been listening to. Do I want to know such intimacies? Not really, although a more subtle approach might have saved the day. I suppose this kind of up-front self-indulgence goes down well on Croswell's side of the Atlantic; its effect on me was to provoke some decidedly old-world sentiments.

I relate this unseemly episode merely to demonstrate that I was not particularly well-disposed towards the book at the outset. It says much for Croswell's skill, therefore, that within twenty pages, I was completely won over. Notwithstanding its enigmatic title, the book is an excellent account of our present understanding of our own Galaxy, and the intellectual processes that have led us there. It tells the story of the endeavours of scientists working in studies of the Milky Way since the earliest times. As such, it is a history book, though it is unlikely to grace the shelves of the average historian's library. Croswell highlights the personalities involved in Milky-Way research; he relishes the frequent episodes of controversy, and presents accurate descriptions of the issues at stake. He draws heavily on interviews he has conducted with many of the scientists involved. Here and there are some fascinating insights.

Croswell's style is engaging (as it should be for an astronomy-PhD-turned-journalist), and the book is nicely laid out....It filled several gaps in my knowledge, and refreshed an interest in Galactic structure that flagged a decade or so ago. The author has done an excellent job. So, too, has his sub-editor--I found only one typographical error in the whole book. What a pity the same sub-editor didn't put his red pen through all that maudlin stuff in the acknowledgements.
--Fred Watson

San Francisco Examiner:

Ken Croswell's The Alchemy of the Heavens is one of the very best popular astronomy books in decades. With my usual humility, I delayed reading this book for months because I thought I knew everything about our home in space--the Milky Way Galaxy, a spiral-shaped swarm of hundreds of billions of stars. When I finally read it, I realized that Croswell had achieved a rare feat: a science book that 1) tells an entertaining, even romantic story; 2) clearly explains the historical evolution of difficult scientific ideas; and 3) tells even well-informed readers things that they never knew.

For example: Every bright kid knows that the heavier elements come from exploding stars. But did you know that "most of the iron now flowing through your veins came from white dwarfs (dead Sunlike stars) that exploded long ago, perhaps on the other side of the Galaxy"? I didn't.
--Keay Davidson

Sky and Telescope:

An excellent book on the stellar and atomic contents of the Galaxy is The Alchemy of the Heavens by Ken Croswell. I especially liked the insider information on the shared phenomenon of not receiving the Nobel prize. Croswell is especially thorough in spelling out how the interior lives of stars lead to the gradual enrichment of our Galaxy in heavy elements. Since we are all made of this stardust, the story has a special tang.
--Robert Kirshner

Los Angeles Times:

The Alchemy of the Heavens by Ken Croswell [is] a very well-written, clearly explained account of how we know what we know about our own Galaxy, the Milky Way, and how the bits and pieces of information we have gathered from the sky have been assembled into a grand scheme.

The Milky Way, of course, is our home Galaxy. It is that band of fuzzy light that stretches across the sky on a clear, dark night....

None of this is static. About 10 new stars form each year within the Milky Way. Throughout the universe, stars are forming and dying, spewing out chemicals in their death throes that are the bases of matter. The elements in your body had their origins in distant stars. (That process is the "alchemy" in the book's title.)

But Croswell's book is not just about data and theories.

It is about astronomers as well, who, not surprisingly, turn out to be very human people, motivated by the familiar mix of high-minded and not-so-high-minded goals that we recognize in most areas of endeavor.

Astronomers seek the truth, but few of them are selfless. There is much ego bound up in their work and in their disagreements.

Croswell, a science writer with a Ph.D. in astronomy, brings his story right up to the latest dispute: How old is the universe?
--Lee Dembart

New Scientist:

For an excellent guided tour of our Galaxy, look no further than The Alchemy of the Heavens by Ken Croswell. Croswell's account is celebrated by The Los Angeles Times as one of the five best science books this year.

Croswell looks at the discoveries that revolutionized our knowledge of the Galaxy, and explains how astronomers calculated the Galaxy's size and shape. In the 1940s, they discovered alchemy at work--the nuclear reactions that light stars from deep within their cores. And Croswell describes issues that still perplex astronomers: the invisible matter littering the Milky Way and the giant black hole that may lurk at the Galactic centre.

To anyone swept away with the glamour of cosmology, the Galaxy may seem like small fry. But as Croswell points out, the Milky Way holds clues to some of the biggest questions. Elements in some nearby stars were created just minutes after the big bang, and have much to say about the origins of the universe. The same stars dare to mock the very foundations of cosmological thinking--they profess to being older than some estimates of the age of the universe.

The charm of Croswell's story is that much of it comes straight from the horse's mouth--from interviews with astronomers who have shaped and reshaped our picture of the Galaxy. His colourful account is enlivened by highlights of the controversy that has both fuelled and hindered astronomy's progress, from the debate about the Milky Way's size to the downright "mud wrestling" over the value of the Hubble constant.

The Alchemy of the Heavens is a captivating story, accessible to anyone. Curl up with this one and you'll really get a feeling for the magic of the heavens.
--Hazel Muir

The Toronto Star:

The Alchemy of the Heavens by Ken Croswell may be the sleeper of the year. A flip through this sparsely illustrated book about the Milky Way Galaxy might not inspire a browser. But there are few science writers who can match Croswell's skills when explaining the latest findings about the structure, origin, and destiny of our home Galaxy. Highly recommended.
--Terence Dickinson

Physics Education:

If an eighteen-year-old were to ask me about books on astronomy, the two I would recommend are Ken Croswell's The Alchemy of the Heavens and James Kaler's Extreme Stars, both superb books, but neither a textbook (no problems, no bulleted lists of main points, no soundbites--and all the better for it).
--Susan Cartwright

Astronomy Now:

Look at the popular astronomy shelves of any good bookshop and you will almost certainly find a good selection dealing with our solar system. Answers to the riddle of the universe will also abound, but until recently there has been a gap in good books about the Milky Way. Ken Croswell has filled that hole with his compelling account of what we know about our home Galaxy and its place in the cosmic order.

Beginning with Jacobus Kapteyn's Sun-centred Milky Way, Croswell traces modern Galactic studies through the controversy with Harlow Shapley to Walter Baade's discovery of the different stellar populations existing in different regions of the Galaxy.

The book gets its not altogether appropriate title from a compelling chapter outlining the work of Margaret and Geoffrey Burbidge, Fred Hoyle, and William Fowler, explaining the origin of all but the lightest elements in the nuclear reactions going on in the centre of stars. Fowler got the Nobel prize for his contribution to that work; the others--controversially--did not.

Croswell deals admirably with all the major constituents of the Milky Way--the central bulge, the (thin and thick) disc, the stellar and dark matter halos. There are chapters on the relation of Galactic studies to cosmology, including some of the latest twists and turns in the dispute as to the age of the universe and how that relates to that of the globular clusters. And, presumably at the behest of the publishers, there is the obligatory chapter headed "An Intelligent Galaxy."

This is a lively and well written book, with plenty of first-hand interviews with the major players in the debates. Croswell deserves a round of applause.
--Steven Miller

Publishers Weekly:

Croswell, an astronomer and experienced science writer, has authored an up-to-date and quite readable overview of our present knowledge concerning the Milky Way. Much of this survey concerns relatively recent discoveries about our Galaxy, especially those of the last few decades. In a relaxed style suitable for the general reader, the author recounts important developments in historical context, drawing where possible on interviews with the astronomers who were involved. The work is thus strongly flavored with human interest and some sense of how the science was accomplished. Examples of the numerous topics considered are stellar populations, conflicting models of Galactic birth, and the origin of the elements--hence "alchemy." The implications of Galactic phenomena for cosmology are emphasized. This enlightening and entertaining account has an unfortunate title that is an inadequate clue to its contents.


In The Alchemy of the Heavens, Croswell, a Harvard-trained astronomer who is now a full-time science writer, takes the reader on a journey discovering the Milky Way, synthesizing what is now known about our home Galaxy and showing how this knowledge has been built up through astronomical research and debate.

He begins with Jacobus Kapteyn's conception of the Galaxy as a small, cozy place with a diameter of 55,000 light-years. But it was not long until Harlow Shapley used Cepheids to envision a much larger galaxy and Edwin Hubble gleaned the true nature of other galaxies, demonstrating that the Milky Way and the universe were not one and the same.

During the first two decades of the twentieth century Ejnar Hertzsprung and Henry Norris Russell independently developed the color-magnitude diagram that now bears their names, giving astronomers a tool to aid them in their understanding of the Galaxy's stars. In the 1920s Gustaf Stromberg, Bertil Lindblad, and Jan Oort showed that the Milky Way rotates.

During the following two decades Walter Baade advanced the notion of stellar populations, one of the great breakthroughs in understanding the Galaxy, and William Morgan used photography to show that the Galaxy has spiral arms.

The 1950s saw the publication of the monumental paper by Margaret and Geoffrey Burbidge, William Fowler, and Fred Hoyle on how all the heavier elements could have arisen in the stars. This is the alchemy referred to in the title of this book.

From this point, Croswell leads the reader into the dispute over the origins of the Galaxy. On one side Allan Sandage and colleagues maintain that its genesis was smooth and orderly. The other side, represented by Leonard Searle and Robert Zinn, proposes that the Milky Way formed in a chaotic manner.

More recently there has been considerable controversy over the exact nature of the Galaxy's disk. New Zealander Gerard Gilmore reported a new stellar population that forms a thick disk above and below the thin disk, providing a new view of the Milky Way's past and fueling the debate over the Galaxy's origin.

After visiting that area of contention, Croswell then considers what is known of the Galactic center (that bulge that has been difficult to penetrate) and the Galaxy's frontiers (the satellite galaxies and the dark matter outside the disk of the Milky Way).

He also reviews how knowledge of the Milky Way has shed light on the age of the universe and has influenced the current battle over the Hubble constant.

Croswell finishes the book by examining the requirements for intelligent life in the universe and the likelihood that we may be the most technologically advanced species in the Milky Way.

The Alchemy of the Heavens is a careful, objective account aimed at general readers, but some sections, especially those about recent research, may prove heavy going for the uninitiated.

Nevertheless, Croswell has produced an excellent synthesis of current knowledge on the Milky Way, made all the more interesting by first-hand interviews instead of the usual synopsis of scientific papers.
--Stephen H. Peters


Once proved, in the 1930s, that the white trail across the nocturnal sky was our edge-on view of a rotating spiral galaxy, astronomers have been intent on discovering the composition and evolution of that immense structure, one arm of which slings the Sun around every 200 million years. Croswell's well-written, crystal-clear presentation elucidates current controversies, such as the paradox that the Milky Way's oldest stars appear to be older than the age of the universe, by showing the science dynamic--observation and theory--in action. How such problems arise and the avenues to possible solutions encompass the sub-field of stellar "demographics," as Croswell dubs the typology of stars, and another branch tackles the question of origin: did the Galaxy accrete from gas, or did it form after collisions with small galaxies? Covering kinetics, chemistry, and the scientists, this work will snare all general reading interests. With no other popular work available on the Milky Way, libraries pass over this at peril of patron ire.
--Gilbert Taylor

Science Books and Films:

In this book, Ken Croswell, well known to astronomy buffs for his popular writing and radio broadcasts, uses his considerable talents to explain the Milky Way, our home Galaxy. The book is well illustrated with 12 glossy photos of nebulae and galaxies and a fair number of diagrams by Philippe Van. Included are a valuable list of 20 features of the Milky Way, a helpful 26-page glossary, and a 31-page bibliography from Aaronson to Zinn. Croswell starts with what we can see in the Milky Way and then moves to theoretical conclusions about the Galaxy's size and shape. The contents of the Milky Way evoke stellar classification, and the rotation of the Galaxy brings in observations of stellar motions. At each step, the author describes the men and women who did the original research and tells how they became interested in it. This gives a homey flavor to the text and adds interesting sidelights. The scientific data are accurate and up to date, and there is no formal math. The volume contains a good, 20-column index. I recommend this book for high school, college, and general audiences.
--Thornton Page

Ciel et Terre:

"La Voie Lactee est un chef-d'oeuvre de diversite....Les etoiles les plus brillantes de la Voie Lactee emettent davantage de lumiere en un seul jour que le Soleil n'en generera au cours des deux prochains millenaires, tandis que les etoiles les moins brillantes brillent d'une maniere si faible que si l'une d'entre elles venait a remplacer le Soleil, il ferait plus sombre en plein midi que par une nuit au clair de Lune."

"Quel que soit le cas--que la Voie Lactee abonde en [sources de] vie intelligente ou que nous en soyons son unique exemplaire--la Galaxie a deja rempli un role majeur: elle a donne naissance a la vie intelligente."

Par ces deux citations, debute et s'acheve ce livre interessant sur "L'Alchimie des cieux" dont le soustitre, quelque peu enigmatique, precise "A la recherche du sens dans la Voie Lactee." Que le lecteur ne s'y trompe pas: il ne s'agit pas d'un livre rempli de considerations philosophiques sur la vie dans l'Univers. Il s'agit plutot d'une veritable histoire de la Galaxie, presentee dans un style clair et simple, avant tout destinee a faire connaitre au grand public l'evolution extraordinaire des conceptions scientifiques sur la Voie Lactee sous tous ses aspects.

L'auteur analyse la plupart des developpements les plus interessants survenus dans ce domaine de l'astrophysique depuis 1950. En ce sens, ce livre retrace l'histoire de l'exploration de notre Galaxie au travers et au hasard des decouvertes realisees, des hypotheses emises et des observations recueillies.

Ce livre servira de guide pour un voyage extraordinairement detaille et captivant dans les differents recoins de la Galaxie, en suivant l'evolution des idees et des moyens d'investigation mis en place plus particulierement au cours de la deuxieme moitie du XX siecle.
--Rene Dejaiffe

Contemporary Physics:

I have never forgotten the awe with which I gazed up at the Moon in 1969 and thought to myself, "Wow! There are people actually walking around up there." That was before I had thought much about astronomy, and as time has gone on I have become more and more struck by the unbelievable extent of our knowledge about objects which are light-years beyond the reach of hands-on experimentation.

The chain of reasoning which builds up our ideas about the distances, temperatures, ages, compositions, and histories of the stars and galaxies is almost as tenuous as the material out of which they are made. Yet every link in the chain is supported by evidence, some of it compelling and some of it less so. Ken Croswell leaves us in no doubt where his sympathies lie, but he nevertheless gives the alternative views (and their supporting evidence) a fair hearing....

Ken Croswell has a knack of presenting information in a way which sets you thinking. A hallmark of the book is the large number of homely illustrations of the kind of thing involved in a scientific concept. Tongue in cheek, of course, since the detail included is not likely to endear it to folk who cannot understand the concepts themselves. Another hallmark is the plethora of quotes from landmark researchers in the field, from which the astronomers concerned emerge as real, warm-blooded people.

The substance of the book centres round the structure and evolution of the Milky Way, starting from protostars and protogalaxies. How the initial condensations come about is not touched on--Jeans does not get a mention--but the controversies raging over whether or not the thick disk exists and how the elements were created are totally riveting and eminently readable. If you have missed the week-by-week to-ing and fro-ing of astronomy in the scientific press over the last ten years then this will bring you up to date by giving you the enduring essentials. I have not enjoyed an astronomy book so much for a long time.
--T. Ayres

Library Journal:

Croswell, a writer for popular science magazines, offers an excellent overview of current thinking on the structure and evolution of our home Galaxy. Beginning with a quick tour of the Milky Way, its ten satellite bodies, and the Local Group, the author places the Sun and other familiar stars within the Galaxy's distinct segments. He recounts the early, stumbling progress of astronomers toward an understanding of the Milky Way and other massive, isolated collections of stars, which came to be revealed as such only through the flurry of discoveries and technical advancements made in this century. While some material is more accessible to specialists, Croswell does an admirable job of linking a knowledge of the Milky Way's components, dynamics, and evolution to even greater cosmological questions: the age, mass, and ultimate fate of the universe.
--Patrick Dunn

Monthly Notices of the Astronomical Society of South Africa:

This exhaustive work seeks to update one's knowledge of the current theories on numerous aspects of our Galaxy, and indeed even our very existence.

Rival theories on the formation of the Milky Way are discussed in detail and the reader is introduced to the theorists and their work. Along the way some of these profound concepts are explained in layman's terms: dark matter, the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, stellar parallax, nucleosynthesis, and the difference between cosmological redshift and the Doppler redshift....The Alchemy of the Heavens is laced with interesting accounts of the lives of the human characters who have woven the tapestry of our understanding of the Milky Way Galaxy.
--Brian Skinner

Journal for the History of Astronomy:

The study of Galactic structure and its history has become, during the past few decades, one of the richest and most diverse fields of astronomy. It is a wide net that brings together experts from the extremes--for example, from classical studies of proper motions and parallaxes to highly elaborate radio interferometry, from stellar atmospheres to nucleosynthesis. Ken Croswell is the recipient of a Ph.D. for a spectroscopic study of stars far outside the plane of the Milky Way, and he is a deft writer with a knack for developing a story line from the tangled web of history.

Starting with a glance back at the ancient speculation about the Milky Way, Croswell leaps by way of Galileo and William Herschel to the early decades of the twentieth century. At this point, his book hits its stride and the author comes into his own, providing an enthralling review of research from the 1910s up to the early 1990s.

Do not be put off by the title of this book. The "alchemy" it talks about is real--the transformation of hydrogen and helium into heavier elements in stars--and the ominous sounding "search for meaning" is nowhere mentioned inside the book. The author claims that the book is intended for the general public and, although this is stretching things a bit, dedicated amateur astronomers, students, and professionals will be rewarded by reading Croswell's tale.

The author interviewed dozens of astronomers, and his frequent quotes make for lively reading. For example, the late Olin Eggen explained why he stuck to observations of stars and eschewed galaxies: "I want to go to my grave at least believing I know something, and not have, the day after the funeral, somebody discover some cosmological principle that changes the whole thing, as is going to happen in the galaxy business...."

This reviewer found the book enchanting and illuminating. It does not dwell explicitly on historiography or the nature of scientific progress, but it provides perspective on many diverse areas of research and it would make an excellent adjunct to any serious study of modern astronomy, whether historical or scientific.
--Charles A. Whitney

Journal of the British Astronomical Association:

I read this book as if I had borrowed or bought it (i.e. in short chunks, often at bedtime). Thus, it passed an important first test by keeping me interested.

The title is also that of one section, which deals with the nucleosynthesis of "metals" in stars. Fred Hoyle's heterodox opinions are like a recurring bass motif throughout the book--for this is astronomy with personalities. Appropriately, it is also a book peppered with forcefully stated opinions.

The theme is our Galaxy and how we came from the legend of "Via Lactea" to our current view of a giant spiral galaxy attended by a retinue of globular clusters, together with dwarf and irregular galaxies. The Galaxy emerges as a fascinating place, filled with stars ranging from old halo and bulge stars, which may predate the recognisable formation of the Milky Way, to fierce young stars thousands of times brighter than our Sun. The Milky Way becomes an example to illuminate the reader's understanding of the entire universe.

Croswell is good at striking phrases. Stressing the dimness of the Draco dwarf galaxy he points out that it shines "only four times more brightly than the star Rigel." Another one that brings the reader up short is "the Large Magellanic Cloud is the fourth brightest" galaxy in the Local Group.
--Roger O'Brien

The Rosette Gazette:

The book The Alchemy of the Heavens is an excellent modern history of the Milky Way. Written by Ken Croswell, it gives a wonderful insight into the research of our Galaxy. In addition, he gives some ancient history to enrich the context of searching for meaning in the Milky Way. From Jacobus Kapteyn's universe to Frank Drake searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, the book takes the reader on a journey that spans the cosmos....

The Alchemy of the Heavens is the book that will stand forever as the best book about the research associated with the Milky Way in the twentieth century. Ken Croswell does an excellent job of relating advanced astronomy knowledge to the amateur. This book should be recommended to everyone interested in the astronomy of the Milky Way.
--Donald Miller

Nowa Fantastyka:

Chociaz widok Drogi Mlecznej znany byl ludziom od niepamietnych czasow, wlasciwe rozpoznanie, czym ona jest, nastapilo niezbyt dawno, zas ustalenie jej budowy--juz calkiem niedawno. O tym wiec, czym jest swietlista wstega opasujaca cale niebo oraz wszystkie widoczne nieuzbrojonym okiem gwiazdy--traktuje "Alchemia nieba." Ken Croswell wyjasnia tajemnice, jaka przez tysiaclecia byla Galaktyka, nim zrozumiano jej budowe i nasze w niej miejsce. Przedstawia rowniez osoby, ktore przyczynily sie do poznania Galaktyki--astronomow, filozofow, fizykow.
--T. Zbigniew Dworak

The Irish Astronomical Journal:

Astronomer Ken Croswell, who has written for Astronomy and New Scientist, gives us an almost dialogue-style account of some modern thoughts on our Milky Way. Drawing upon first-hand conversations with researchers, together with many published scientific papers and articles, Croswell has managed to produce a readable and up-to-date record of many of the most important results. The journalistic writing may not please everyone but in a curious way The Alchemy of the Heavens (the title taken from Croswell's 18-page chapter 9) manages to steer the reader through the whole fascinating story with the difficult science well-concealed, using straight-forward language and much clarity. The book should sell extremely well, and could easily be mistaken for the gobbled-up prose in Reader's Digest! The reviewer felt a strong sense of the real-life astronomical scene, and has not enjoyed such a read in a long time.

Bad Reviews

This work will leave readers feeling as though they are looking at the heavens through the wrong end of a telescope.
--Anonymous[!], Kirkus Reviews

Read an Excerpt from THE ALCHEMY OF THE HEAVENS!