This slender survey of the observable universe spreads itself a little thin but features plenty of foldouts and dramatic sky art.
The authors set themselves an ambitious goal: general explanations of the Big Bang, along with star birth, death, types, clusters and systems, followed by a look at our closest stellar neighbor. They also pause for quick mentions of artificial satellites, seasons, the water cycle, the visible spectrum, the science and technology of modern astronomy, dark matter, eclipses and our planet’s magnetosphere. Even with 10 single or double gatefolds, the level of detail never gets more than skin deep—though the authors do manage to squeeze in some select facts, such as the average temperatures of our Sun’s layers and a clear if compressed picture of how fusion works. On full but not crowded-looking pages, the captions, vocabulary words and digestible blocks of text are set into and around an engagingly diverse mix of cutaway views, digital paintings and eye-widening deep-space photographs. Closing with general advice for amateur stargazers, plus lists of recommended print and Web resources, supplemented (for readers with smartphones) by three barcode tags linked to downloadable videos and other add-ons, there’s plenty here to stimulate both random browsers and confirmed young sky watchers.A steady look into the high frontier, well above average in both content and design. (Nonfiction. 10-13)