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Jacqueline Mitton (1948–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

astronomy cambridge book university

Born 1948, in Stoke-on-Trent, England; Education: Oxford University, B.A., 1969; Cambridge University, Ph.D., 1975.


Agent—Sara Menguc, 4 Hatch Place, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT2 5NB, England.


Teacher at convent school in Cambridge, England, 1972–74; Cambridge University, Cambridge, researcher in astronomy, 1975–78; writer, 1978—. British Antarctic Survey Headquarters, Cambridge, head of information, 1981–85; Journal of the British Astronomical Association, editor, 1987–93; Cambridge Health Authority, non-executive director, 1993–96; Maris Multimedia Ltd., consultant, 1995–98. Writer/consultant, Nugus Martin Productions, 1998–99. Part-time press officer for Royal Astronomical Society, 1989–2004.


International Astronomical Union, British Astronomical Association (council service, 1994–97, 1998–99), Royal Astronomical Society (fellow; council member, 2005–08), British Association for the Advancement of Science, American Astronomical Society (Planetary Sciences division), U.K. Planetary Forum.

Honors Awards

Marshall Children's Guide to Astronomy was short-listed for Rhone-Poulenc Junior Book prize, 1999; English Association Illustrated Children's Book Award, 2001, for Kingdom of the Sun.



Discovering the Planets, Troll Associates (Mahwah, NJ), 1991.

(With husband, Simon Mitton) Astronomy, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994, published as The Young Oxford Book of Astronomy, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1994.

(With Stephen Maran) Gems of Hubble, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Galileo: Scientist and Star Gazer, illustrated by Gerry Ball, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1997, 2nd edition, 2000.

Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations, illustrated by Christina Balit, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 1998.

Aliens, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1998.

(With Simon Mitton) Marshall Children's Guide to Astronomy, Marshall, 1998, published as Scholastic Encyclopedia of Space, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Stars and Planets ("Young Oxford Library of Science" series), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Kingdom of the Sun: A Book of the Planets, illustrated by Christina Balit, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2001.

Once upon a Starry Night: A Book of Constellation Stories, illustrated by Christina Balit, National Geographic (Washington, DC), 2003.

Zodiac: Elestial Circle of the Sun, illustrated by Christina Balit, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2004.

Let's Go to the Planets! ("Tree-Tops" nonfiction series), Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2005.

Contributed articles to Children's Britannica, 1984; and Oxford Children's Encyclopedia, 1991.


Astronomy: An Introduction for the Amateur Astronomer, Scribner, 1978.

(With husband, Simon Mitton) The Prentice-Hall Concise Book of Astronomy, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1979.

(Co-editor with Simon Mitton, and author of introduction) Star Atlas, Crown (New York, NY), 1979.

(Translator from French with Simon Mitton) Jean Heidmann, An Introduction to Cosmology, Springer-Verlag, 1980.

Key Definitions in Astronomy, Frederick Muller, 1980, published as A Language of Its Own: Astronomy, Frederick Muller (London, England), 1981.

(With Simon Mitton) Invitation to Astronomy, Basil Blackwell (London, England), 1986.

Penguin Dictionary of Astronomy, Penguin (New York, NY), 1991, published as Concise Dictionary of Astronomy, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 3rd edition, 1998.

(Co-editor with John Spencer, and contributor) The Great Comet Crash: The Impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

(With Alan Stern) Pluto and Charon: Ice Worlds at the Ragged Edge of the Solar System, Wiley, 1997, second edition, 2005.

Cambridge Dictionary of Astronomy, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

(With Ralph Lorenz) Lifting Titan's Veil: Exploring the Giant Moon of Saturn, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

(Editor with Jim Bell) Asteroid Rendezvous: NEAR Shoemaker's Adventures at Eros, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2002.


Jacqueline Mitton began her writing career with her husband, Simon Mitton, but has gone on to become somewhat of an authority of all things astronomical. Sometimes working in association with coauthors, Mitton has written such standard reference works as the Cambridge Dictionary of Astronomy as well as other nonfiction books on astronomy for adults, and has also penned a diverse group of books for young adults and children. In each case Mitton's ability to summarize and lyrically explicate difficult concepts and large amounts of material has been lauded. "Although people imagine writing for children is easy," Mitton once commented to Something about the Author (SATA) regarding her career as a science writer, "there is a real challenge in choosing the few words and ideas carefully."

Written for a young-adult audience, Mitton's Aliens profiles the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence The stories of Hercules, Andromeda, Pegasus, and Cassiopeia find their source in ancient man's quest to understand the night skies, as recounted in Jacqueline Mitton's Once upon a Starry Night, featuring illustrations by Christina Balit.(SETI) project, lists aliens from movies, excerpts an issue of UFOs: The Magazine with All the Answers, and recounts several tales of encounters with aliens, explaining why the existence of other intelligent life in our solar system is unlikely. "This inviting mix of hype and hypotheses will draw readers like a magnet," predicted John Peters in a review of the book for School Library Journal.

In the hopes of sparking an early interest in the stars and planets, Mitton has written several books for young readers. Zoo in the Sky depicts animals among the constellations as they can be seen in the night sky, their shapes highlighted in glittering stars. A companion volume, Once upon a Starry Sky: A Book of Constellations, selects ten constellations and retells the Greek myths that gave these star groupings their names. Zoo in the Sky was praised as a picture book that "certainly has eye appeal" by Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan. Echoing the same opinion, Donna L. Scanlon in School Library Journal dubbed the book a "lovely and unusual offering" that serves as "an attractive introduction to astronomy" as well as an effective entree into discussions on mythology and folklore. "Mitton's vivid word choices make the text as dynamic as [illustrator Christina] Balit's striking pictures," noted Phelan of Once upon a Starry Sky, while a Kirkus Reviews writer dubbed the book "another winner in the stars-for-kids department."

Mitton told Something about the Author (SATA) that her collaboration with Balit has been a particularly enjoyable and fruitful one. "I love Christina's colorful and imaginative style, which inspired me to write three more Astronomer Mitton shares her enthusiasm for the magic of the night sky, as well as a wealth of ancient lore, in Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations. (Illustration by Christina Balit.)books after Zoo in the Sky. We were both thrilled when Kingdom of the Sun won the UK's English Association award in 2001 for best illustrated children's nonfiction in its age-group class." The fourth book from the collaboration is another exploration of constellations titled Zodiac.

Mitton once commented to SATA: "I doubt whether I would have ever written anything at all if my husband, Simon, had not started writing when we were both graduate students. At the time I thought, 'If he can do it, I can do it.'" Commenting on the books she has authored jointly with her husband, Mitton noted: "Our joint efforts have been particularly fruitful since we specialize in separate fields. The criticism we offer each other seems to result in something better than we might have produced individually. We have no problems in working together."

Due to her knowledge and her success as a writer, Mitton has served as a consultant to publisher Dorling Kindersley on their children's astronomy and space books. She has made significant contributions to numerous titles for them, including Night Sky Atlas, Stargazer, and E-encyclopedia of Science. "I like writing," Mitton noted, "but I am also keen on my consultancy work as I feel strongly that reference books for children should include the most up-to-date and accurate information—and it is not easy for publishers and non-specialist writers to keep up with a subject like astronomy where new discoveries are made every day."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Astronomy, June, 2001, Stephen P. Maran, review of The Cambridge Astronomy Dictionary, p. 94.

Booklist, November 1, 1998, Carolyn Phelan, review of Zoo in the Sky, p. 498; January 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Once upon a Starry Night: A Book of Constellations, p. 868.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of Once upon a Starry Night, p. 86.

Library Journal, March 15, 2001, Teresa Berry, review of The Cambridge Astronomy Dictionary, p. 72.

Magpies, November, 1992, p. 36.

Nature, April 2, 1992, R. J. Tayler, review of A Concise Dictionary of Astronomy, pp. 395-396.

School Librarian, November, 1997, p. 205.

School Library Journal, July, 1997, Darrell G. Ardoin, review of Gems of Hubble, p. 118; December, 1998, Donna L. Scanlon, review of Zoo in the Sky, p. 111; July, 1999, John Peters, review of Aliens, p. 111; January, 2004, Dona Ratterree, review of Once upon a Starry Night, p. 120.

Tony Mitton (1951-) Biography - Personal, Writings, Sidelights - Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Work in Progress [next]

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7 months ago

If you do publish my question, please don't show my email address - thank you!!

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7 months ago

Dear Jacqueline Mitton,

I am an art historian and have found myself researching aspects of astronomy in relation to Renaissance painting.

I wonder if I could ask you a question about a book for which you acted as consultant? In 'The Practical Astronomer' (page 101) its states that the star Serpentis Nehushtan falls within the constellation of Serpens Cauda.

I am trying to find out when that star was named Serpentis Nehushtan, and if an artist working in the Renaissance would have known it by that name. I can't find any other reference for this name of star. Could you possibly let me knpw your source, or point me towards some further reading?

Thank you so much for any information you may have.
Best wishes,
Rebecca Walker
Bristol, UK

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about 5 years ago

Ms. Jacqueline Mitton May 31, 2013
8A Canterbury Close
Cambridge CB4 3QQ
United Kingdom

RE: Aliens book

Dear Ms. Mitton:

It truly amazes me when I read a children's book that is so full of misinterpretations, biased opinion and outright errors. Did Al Gore assist in the composition of this book? Probably not but it seems so.

My daughter picked up this book thinking it would be fun to read and provide her some factual references as she is an avid sci-fi fan. But she put it down after the first 5 pages and told me the book didn't make sense.

You see, I have a strong aviation and research background with over 40 years of experience, and much of what you show and postulate within this book as factual information to younger and undeveloped minds is erroneous and mostly your narrow opinion, with no fact to support your premises.

Point of fact: Kenneth Arnold's UFO sighting. You state that Kenneth Arnold was a business man but fail to include his military flying in WWII and his over 7,000 hours of flying experience. Experience that allowed him to identify these UFO's not only an unrecognizable flying shape, but to estimate their speed and distance over terrain he was extremely familiar with. He was trained as a military aviator to specifically be able to make those kind of observations. That and the fact that these flying shapes did not flap their wings as would be the case with geese.

I wonder, how much pilot training and flying experience do you have? More than a military trained pilot who had flown over almost every terrain in Europe, South America and the United States?

Point Two: Roswell. While there is still much speculation about these happenings your arguments include the 1997 USAF report that the wreckage was “from a top-secret experiment” (so far I can agree) but your reference then specifies that it was from a high altitude experiment where dummies were dropped. If you had done your homework you would have found out that these experiments did in fact occur, but they were not started until 1955, nine (9) years after the Roswell incident.

I myself find it interesting that the USAF was still making excuses for Roswell 50 years after it happened. You may wish to do some real research and some great hints for you are USAF Lt. General Nathan Twining, Walter Schauberger, Boyd Bushman.

Regarding Men in Black. These I have never run across myself, nor anyone I have personally known, but there are some interesting reads out there regarding this subject. There are those who have written books, such a David Morehouse, identifying who these alleged people represent.
While their stories seem out there a bit, many of the organizations they mention are real and do not enter the light of day often. In the Morehouse a book on Remote Viewing, he mentions a very quiet organization that was run by a Mr. Harold E. Puthoff of the Institute of Advanced Studies at Austin. In it he claims to have been one of the viewers and I.D.'s the MIB as specially qualified “Pinkerton Men” working on the behalf of a black ops program under the steerage of a group he identifies as MJ-12. Today the Pinkerton Government services are active within the US Government but details of their work are obscured and only relayed in vague sweeping terms.

Please note that a “Majic” clearance was the highest clearance used back in the 40's and 50's by the US government and this was modified in the 60's to “Majestic,” so the leap to MJ is not quantum in nature. Remote Viewing was actively used in the 70's and 80's by the US, USSR and British. In fact, the US Capitol building and White House were actually actively defensed against this type of threat.

Lights in the sky, I too believe that many, if not most of these can be explained away and verified. Consider also a statement made by General Twining in 1954, that the US had in its possession technology that, “with a serious effort” could, within several years, produce an air vehicle with flight capabilities like many reported UFO's.

A book you may wish to read is “The Hunt For Zero Point” by Nick Cook of the UK. Much of what he writes about I am familiar with, including many of the experiments he describes in his book. He has missed several obvious connections in his book to ongoing US Military projects, so called, secrets hidden in plain view, but a good read all the same.

On page 25: How could you have made such a booboo? You talk about an F-117A Stealth Fighter and show a poor diagram of a B2 Stealth Bomber. You should verify your facts before going to print, or at least go to a Barns & Noble bookstore and peruse the large cover books on aircraft types.

On page 33: “the solar system's been explored fairly thoroughly now?” “No one's found any sign of living creatures yet.” When exactly did we explore the whole galaxy thoroughly? And what of the fossil evidence found by NASA in rocks from Mars? This is a question posed to young persons that seems to have been designed to elicit a specific answer, or thought. With an estimated one hundred billion stars, and ten times as many planets in our solar system, when did we explore these?

If memory serves me, Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan and even Steven Hawkings believe/d in extraterrestrial life. Carl Sagan was a member of the “UFO Working Group.” This was a group of scientists and astronomers that was funded by the US Government in the 70's specifically to explore UFO possibilities and how to interact with them if we came in contact with them.

Page 33: “Say one day some SETI researchers find a signal they can't explain;” According to Dr. Steven Greer ( April 2011), SETI has received multiple extraterrestrial signals. “We have confirmation – but one of the senior people in the SETI project, which is the Carl Sagan Search for Extraterrestrial project, has confirmed to the Disclosure Project that they have received multiple extraterrestrial signals, but that now they are getting external human, probably NRO or NSA jamming of those signals and they are getting very frustrated.”

He continued: “The question is why hasn't the SETI project .. come forward with this information? I'm a little uncomfortable even mentioning this, except for the fact that the public needs to know that this effort, which has received a great deal of mainstream media attention, has actually confirmed to us from two inside sources that they have received extraterrestrial signals and have confirmed them as being extraterrestrial and that they have become increasing in frequency and number.”

Dr. Greer is the head of the Disclosure Project which is a non-profit organization having almost 500 former military, intelligence, and government employees on record about their various experiences with aliens and alien technologies. Not exactly a bunch of crazies looking for a mother ship.

Page 68: Time travel. Did you know the Nazi's in WWII were working on time travel? You might want to brush up on “Vortex Compression,” “magnetic field separation” and a scientist named Dr. Evgeny Podkletnov of Russia. Or the resultant effect from the mixing of reinvigorating matter, with the Pythagorean concepts of “harmonics” and the laws of planetary motion. Or even “vacuum energy”.

The Germans, and later Plodkletnov efforts in trying to generate a torsion field. They believed that “if you could generate a torsion field of sufficient magnitude you would be able to bend the four dimensions of space around the generator,” i.e. when you bend space, you also bend time!

Was this effect ever achieved? Some who have interviewed former Nazi scientists and others who have worked on this later allude to the fact that it has been achieved by the USA. By how much, or if it is advanced enough to be utilized realistically is anyone's guess. So I guess I will let you off on this one, but I only ask that in your efforts to educate, you do not fall prey to your own dogmas.

I believe if you truly put forth an effort to educate yourself in this matter, without putting up barriers, you will find that there are a great many scientists who firmly believe that space travel, including faster than light travel, is fully achievable. Maybe today, maybe not. You and I will not know until it is opened up to the general public, which may not be within our lifetimes.


Robert Wulf

Robert Wulf
Stillwater MN USA

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over 6 years ago

Mi motivo es poder contactar a la señora Jacqueline Mitton, porque pude fotografiar el fenómeno de los arcoiris invertidos. Mande un mensaje anterior con un mail erroneo, por favor dirigirse a el que aparece aquí.


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over 6 years ago

Si alguien sabe el modo de contactarme con la señora Jacqueline Mitton, se lo agradecería. El motivo de mi interés es que en Argentina, mi país de origen, tuve la oportunidad de fotografiar el fenómeno de los arcoiris invertidos.