Numbers are among the things that boggle the mind of this versatile fiction/nonfiction writer/editor (Earthlove; The Body Almanac; The Beatles Forever), and what better place for big numbers than astronomy? Nearly every page of this popularization is replete with figures, expressed both in metric and English systems. ""Estimates put the total number of quasars in the observable (past) universe at about 15 million. . .The distance around the Galaxy's disk is 1.85 million trillion miles. . ."" And so it goes, as McAleer enthuses first about our own Milky Way, then expands to consider, in order, neighboring and faraway galaxies, quasars, the universe at large, concluding with its past and future. In short, he proceeds out into space and back in time and tidies everything up at the end with a review of contemporary theories of origins and destinies. This is done in paragraphs with bold-face headlines and an occasional sidebar to permit a non-technical explanation of measuring devices and techniques. The style is breezy, with pleasant chapter epigraphs ranging from Haldane's classic ""The universe is not only queerer than we imagine, it's queerer than we can imagine ""to prose and poetry gems from Whitman, Shakespeare or John Updike. All this is by way of saying that there is nothing opinionated here. McAleer has essentially canvassed the right sources for an up-to-date reading (with illustrations) of accepted canon, along with current cosmological theories. Then he's laid them out in a way that permits flipping through to find a fact or reading from cover to cover. The arrangement may not make for immortal prose, but can serve even the high-school reader well as a handy short text and reference.