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Under the Stars: Chris De Pree’s New Book Provides a Guide for “Astronomical Mindfulness”

A clear evening sky sits outstretched beyond the view of Bradley Observatory on the campus of Agnes Scott College. The tiny glow of a thousand stars serves as the audience for a moment of meditation and contemplation. 

Breathe in. Breathe out.

The stress of a busy day is figuratively melting off in the crisp January air. A recentering to be ready for the days ahead. 

For Charles A. Dana professor of astronomy Chris De Pree and alum Sarah Scoles ’07, these are the moments they had in mind when crafting the idea for their new book, “Astronomical Mindfulness: Your Cosmic Guide to Reconnecting with the Sun, Moon, Stars and Planets,” which debuted on January 4. The title currently sits atop the Amazon bestseller list in the astronomy category. 

An illustration of a person looking up at the night sky with a homemade telescope.
An illustration from “Astronomical Mindfulness.”

“For years, I had thought about the idea for this book—kind of an astronomy workbook for non-experts,” says De Pree, who currently serves as the NRDZ director at The National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

“‘Astronomical Mindfulness’ is meant to be a very low-key guide to noticing the sky above you and how it changes, day and night. And the hope is that in noticing small details and changes over time, you will be more mindful of and connected to your local environment,” he adds. 

He reflects on a period toward the end of his tenure at Agnes Scott when community members from Decatur neighborhoods gathered impromptu to view planetary conjunction amidst the global pandemic. The laughing, talking, connecting during that night is what he remembers most from his perch atop the observatory, a reinforcement for the book. 

De Pree started by reaching out to his former student Scoles, an accomplished science writer and editor for several distinguished publications, to gauge her interest. Before long, HarperOne picked up the book idea. The two fleshed out the core of the book, which De Pree hopes will be a tool for readers, even without access to a telescope. 

“I hope that they will take away a new understanding about how slowing down, looking and noticing the sky above you can enrich your life and calm your soul.”

The book is currently available at bookstores across the country, including at Charis Books & More at Agnes Scott. Click here to visit.

Students step off distances between planets on Bradley Plaza, which depicts the Earth’s solar system at the entrance to Bradley Observatory at Agnes Scott College.