The real winner in this large format ""atlas"" of the solar system is NASA, the source for many of the stunning color and black-and-white photos and photomosaics taken from such vehicles as Landsat, Viking, Mariner, and other space probes. (Not to be provincial, there are also Russian photos, such as those of the surface of Venus.) These pictures, complemented by handsome paintings (Pesek's)--plus numerous charts and diagrams to explain, say, the seasons on Mercury--make up a volume of summary findings about the solar system that is a natural for home or school libraries. The text is a crisp presentation of facts by an English science writer (Ryan), which, while presuming no deep technical knowledge, assumes the reader is no slouch either. (There is a small problem of continuity since the text often jumps several pages filled with illustrations, sidebars, and lengthy captions.) In addition to describing prevailing conditions on the planets and principal moons, the text gives considerable attention to the biochemistry of life on earth and the potential for its existence elsewhere. Space limitations notwithstanding, Ryan manages to provide a little history and some piquant asides--such as the fact that Pluto was named ""as much for the ancient Greek ruler of the dark underworld as for the first two letters of his name which are also [Percival] Lowell's initials."" Maybe some of the four-color diagrams are a bit gaudy, but the natural beauty of the photos, the exemplary text, and the overall tone of brisk excitement more than compensate. An admirable book.