With a genial BBC science educator as guide, a good gander round our stellar neighborhood, from Earth to Oort cloud.
Promising to leave “no question unanswered and no meteorite unturned,” the space-suited co-host of the long-running The Sky at Night leads readers past the sun, planets, moons, and other major members of our local “gravity gang.” She pauses to point out the International Space Station and the ring of “space junk” around Earth, describe the missions of select historical space probes, and marvel at must-see high spots like the rings of Saturn and the 20-km-high cliff Verona Rupes on Uranus’ moon Miranda. Along the way she also explains how orbits and lunar phases work, speculates about other places where life (as we know it) may be possible, discusses a theorized “Planet Nine” that may be out there somewhere, and casts a final glance at the composition of interstellar space. Her commentary, presented in lozenge-shaped bubbles, is scattered over mixes of photos and digital renderings so seamlessly blended that the difference between observable features and speculative ones is sometimes lost in the shuffle. Still, the substantial factual payload, ably abetted by a closing “ship’s database” that includes a largely female gallery of astronomers and other “space people,” is lightened by the author/narrator’s chatty style.
Similar tours abound, but a well-informed chaperone gives this one an added boost. (index, glossary). (Nonfiction. 9-11)