Book Review: What’s Out There

Another space shuttle launch. Another truss for the space station. Where’s this activity leading us? The easy answer is, ‘to the stars’. That’s a fine answer for fifty years ago, but not any longer. We’ve learned so much. Addressing this need, a team of authors have compiled an informative picture book entitled What’s Out There – Images from Here to the Edge of the Universe. This book by Mary K. Baumann, Will Hopkins, Loralee Nolletti, and Michael Soluri dish out large format astronomy pictures on large format pages. The captivating beauty can easily seduce anyone into knowing that ‘to the stars’ is indeed the answer.

With all the observation platforms aimed into space, whether on Earth or off, many truly outstanding images are captured. Whether in real colour, with artificial enhancement, or via translating far away portions of the spectrum into visual, the universe has great appeal. Thus choosing which pictures to put in a book based on images is no simple task. The authors for What’s Out There base their selection loosely upon the alphabet, such as A is for Asteroid. It’s a good idea, but S is for Star seems slightly unimaginative. Nevertheless, this technique for organization allows a reader to use this book as part of a lesson plan or for haphazard wandering into the field of astronomy. Each little provides another window into the universe that surrounds us.

In acknowledging the technical elements of astronomy, the authors add two notes. Most subjects, identified with a letter of the alphabet, have five or six short paragraphs describing interesting facts and details about the subject. For example, E is for Europa and it describes the origin for the name, the location of this moon, and the reason for the particular colours and patterns seen on the image. The second note states the name of the platform that made the image, the image’s original EMR frequency, the date the image was made, and the distance to the photograph’s subject. These notes are the principle value for the reader who wants to learn more about the glamorous star-scapes and vistas that grace the pages.

Having hundreds of images for over 40 platforms, this book provides depth across the field of astronomy. As such, this book would most benefit the generalist who wants to take a brief foray into the field of astronomy. In particular, it’s for people who’ve seen the great pictures in magazines or the web and want to learn a bit more without being inundated in detail or hard science. However, because of this, the book will likely not have much longevity in a personal library unless for a primary school educator who needs a reference.

The universe may be expanding, but, in our own way, we are getting closer to the planets and stars that travel with us. What’s Out There – Images from Here to the Edge of the Universe, a picture portfolio book by Mary K. Baumann, Will Hopkins, Loralee Nolletti, and Michael Soluri is one way that brings those far away travels into our immediate realm. With all the beauty displayed in the book, it just begs us to keep getting closer for more tantalizing space images.

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