Secret Life of Stars, Astrophysics for Everyone by Lisa Harvey-Smith

Published on November 19, 2021

The Secret Life of Stars Book Cover

Reviewed by Marybeth Ginsberg

Published in 2021, The Secret Life of Stars: Astrophysics for Everyone is a non-fiction book written by award-winning astrophysicist Lisa Harvey-Smith from South Wales. Harvey-Smith’s research interests focus on the birth and death of stars, and supermassive black holes. Her knowledge and fascination with the celestial universe are conveyed in this detailed and revealing book about the stars and their chemical processes. She describes the enormity of the outbursts and eruptions that are common to stars through creative analogies that help the reader to envision the vastness of the universe and impact of time.

My favorite Enigma: A Spinning Pulsar and its Diamond Planet (pgs.74-75).  Harvey-Smith describes PSR J1719-1438 and its ‘diamond planet’ as a unique celestial pair. Smaller than the Earth, and yet weighing much more, PSR J1719-1438 is a pulsar that spins once every 5.8 milliseconds –ten times faster than a washing machine’s spin cycle! Its companion star is known as the ‘diamond planet’ because it was thought to contain a hard carbon core. While new research poses a challenge to this idea, the moniker still sticks.

Harvey-Smith’s accounts are based on research and experience. She offers a unique perspective by recalling history, events, and observations to enrich the reader’s understanding of the stars in the universe. Harvey-Smith shares a sense of wonderment that excites the reader. This is a great book that will leave you starry-eyed and full of amazement!

Harvey-Smith’s TEDx talk What Happens When Galaxies Collide can be found at


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