Deep Space by Govert Schilling, $29.95 (US) £19.99 (UK), Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
Deep Space is our ticket for a sightseeing trip across the cosmos, visiting key locations en route to the beginning of space and time. Our guide is Govert Schilling, a renowned populariser of science, with a gift for conveying awesome concepts to ordinary Earthlings.
Passports are included, though in this case they are panels listing key facts about individual stops on our grand tour. And our picture postcards are the many spectacular images included, some of them photos taken with space telescopes, others artists’ concepts.
This tour of the Universe begins in the Solar System, starting with the Sun, then the planets grouped as rocky and then gassy worlds. Separate stops clump together the satellites, or moons, of the planets, and those other lesser bodies, comets and asteroids.
Sadly the Rosetta mission’s superb close-ups of a Comet 67P came too late to be included, and neither is room found for a photo of Pluto, following loss of its planetary status.
Beyond the Solar System, our tour takes us to newly found exoplanets, sites where stars are born and end their lives, clusters and nebulae and then out to the galaxies. There are pauses on the way to give us a background in the history of astronomy, and the vehicles that allow us to make our virtual voyage, telescopes both on the ground and operating in space.
There is much ground – or rather Universe – to cover in this whistlestop race through space. But alongside the hundreds of illustrations, Schilling’s highly readable and authoritative text ensures no one gets lost. As well as a voyage through space we come to appreciate the journey humans have taken over thousands of years to better understand the nature of their cosmic surroundings.
Though not a book about amateur astronomy, there are 14 pages of star charts by famed cartographer Wil Tirion at the back. But like any good guide book, they help us locate the positions in the heavens of the sights featured, while reminding us that the only way we can really ever visit them is with our feet on planet Earth.
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