“Hubble: The Mirror on the Universe” by Robin Kerrod is the newest coffee table book filled with beautiful pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope. The 192-page hardcover contains hundreds of pictures, of objects as near as our solar system to the very edges of the Universe.
The book is categorized into different kinds of astronomical objects, so the chapters go like: Stars in the Firmament, Stellar Death and Destruction, etc. Each chapter is broken up into a collection of images from Hubble that relate to the topic, and then a nice description of what’s going on in the picture. Robin Kerrod is an accomplished astronomy writer (The Sky at Night, History of NASA, more) and it really helps to have a knowledgeable guide take you through the pictures. There are also plenty of full page, and even two-page spreads dedicated to some of the best pictures from Hubble.
The book was only published in September 2003, so its big advantage to all the other Hubble coffee table books is that it’s got the newest photos. I noticed some pictures that were only released a few months ago.
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What surprised me when I read the book is that it’s really an overview of astronomy, using pictures from Hubble as a background to the descriptions. Instead of ignoring things that Hubble hasn’t taken pictures of, Kerrod included pictures from other sources other than Hubble – I think this was a wise move because it makes the book a more complete view of space and astronomy than a narrow view through the Hubble mirror.
The pictures are beautiful, no argument here – you’ll recognize many of them. And the text is comprehensive and well-written. There’s really good background information on the observatory itself; how it was built, launched, repaired and upgraded.
Although it was great to see additional text and pictures to make the book a more complete view of astronomy, the non-Hubble pictures aren’t clearly marked. Sometimes there’s a mention in the image caption, and there are image credits at the back of the book, but it would have been helpful if they stated it clearly beside the images. So, you can’t assume that every picture you’re looking at was actually taken by Hubble.