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I'm an undergrad software engineer but I also love physics and math. I'm starting to get going in AI/Machine Learning techniques and I'm going to use NASA data-sets to conduct analysis. However, I am not really acquainted with the pieces that make up the universe. This is a GIANT problem for me! I could browse wikipedia for hours but I don't think that would fit well with my way of learning in a linear fashion. I do not have any background in astronomy, so:

I realize this is probably a bit hard to answer but what book(s) should I read first? What should I read after that? What about after that etc...?

I love learning and am more than prepared to take the time to work my way through them. Thank you in advance!

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    $\begingroup$ I saw your question yesterday and meant to sift through my books before work and list some of my personal recommendations (as well as why it is I recommend them), but it looks like I've failed. (I won't be able to write any answers for at least a couple days.) Just off the top of my head though, Carl Sagan's book Pale Blue Dot is about where I started reading when I wanted to learn more about space exploration and astrophysics stuff. $\endgroup$ – BMF Feb 12 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! I'll leave this post up in case you decide to share more :) @BMFForMonica $\endgroup$ – ErlichBachman Feb 12 at 23:09
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    $\begingroup$ Astronomy (with astrophysics) is a GIANT field. Will you need to know about how stars form, why there are spiral galaxies, supernovas, stellar nucleosynthesis, black holes, ... ? $\endgroup$ – Keith McClary Feb 13 at 4:21
  • $\begingroup$ I would love to know all of that, so your recommendations are more than welcome! I'm planning on using data to look at pulsars, black holes at the center of galaxies(supermassive blackholes?), the life of stars(also star clusters), exoplanets, calculating redshift, classifying galaxies into categories. This is just a short list of the data sets that I'm most interested in at the moment, however, my enthusiasm has a tendency to get the better of me so whatever I learn first will be what I focus on and then successively from there. I hope this helps clarify some things! :) @KeithMcClary $\endgroup$ – ErlichBachman Feb 13 at 8:06
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    $\begingroup$ I only know what I read on Bad Astronomy and other science sites. Note, for example, that some of the authors of The Vanishing & Appearing Sources during a Century of Observations project , PDF are IT people. Also discussed in Gizmodo with mention of AI. $\endgroup$ – Keith McClary Feb 13 at 19:16