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Audiobook Downloadable / ISBN-13: 9781529346138

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A sweeping inquiry into how the night sky has shaped what it means to be human.

For tens of thousands of years, the stars were our constant companions. One of our species’ most enduring and universal relationships has been with the night sky itself, yet in the glow of today’s artificial lighting, we have forgotten this intimacy with the cosmos.

Stargazing has shaped the entire course of human civilization. The rhythm of our ancestors’ lives revolved around the stars, from cycles of agriculture to patterns of birth. Our origin myths made the Sun into a life-giving creator and the Milky Way a gateway for departed souls. The motion of celestial bodies sustained the illusion that the Earth was at the centre of the cosmos – until looking at them more closely sparked the Scientific Revolution. Across the ages stars have served as clocks, maps, compasses, muses, and gods, defining both our laws of reality and our dreams of the sublime.

How radically different would humanity be if our ancestors had looked up to the night sky and seen . . . nothing? In lyrical yet evidence-grounded meditations, Trotta imagines a world without stars, a dramatic alternate history in which we wouldn’t understand gravity, where couldn’t navigate or have much sense of time, and where our sense of the profound – of art and of the divine – was altered beyond recognition.

Revealing the hidden connections between astronomy and the story of civilization, Starborn summons us to the marvellous sight that awaits us on a dark, clear night – to lose ourselves in the immeasurable vastness above.

(P) 2023 Hodder & Stoughton Limited


A stunning and unforgettable voyage through the stars. Almost every page will make you gulp in astonishment. To be so authoritative and yet so readable and companionable, that is a rare and priceless achievement
Stephen Fry, actor
We are in danger of losing our night skies, our first and most primal connection to the greater universe around us. Roberto Trotta's rich and poetic book is a powerful call to preservation. By tracing the intimate connections between human history and the stars above, he reminds us that the skies are not only filled with beauty, but also with meaning and promise
The most universal feature of our environment, the starry sky has been wondered at by all human societies since prehistoric times. Roberto Trotta draws on a trove of historical, scientific and literary sources to reveal the often-surprising influences of a cosmic perspective on human lives. A fascinating book, admirable for erudition and style, that will leave readers viewing the stars with fresh eyes
Professor Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal
Stimulating and sobering, a very readable inquiry into the night sky with a broad sweep
Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, University of Oxford
A sweeping tour of humanity's relationship with the night sky, Starborn soars from the historical to the personal. Trotta reveals how our lives are intertwined with the stars, from the exploration of our own planet and the birth of the sciences to how the human gaze turned inward. He also offers fantastical vignettes of what might have been - imagining a world without the heavens - and a clear-eyed view of humankind's current and future connection with Earth and the cosmos
Professor Emily Levesque, author of THE LAST STARGAZERS
Who would've thought the stars were so decisive for humanity? Fascinating and wondrous, the untold starry tale of how we came to be and a stark warning of the starless desolation ahead, should we be unwise enough to neglect our cosmic heritage
Professor Carissa Véliz, author of PRIVACY IS POWER
A fascinating insight into how and why the study of the stars has been central to the human story, and a book for anyone who cares about human culture and where it will be heading next
Andy Lawrence, author of LOSING THE SKY
Trotta writes like a poet, suffusing fact-dense pages with heart and even ardor. Starborn presents an engaging cultural history, salted with well-placed literary reference . . . accessible and enjoyable . . . meticulously researched, with an almost limitless archive of stellar trivia
Wall Street Journal
Beautifully written