09 March 2010

Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle

The allure of science fiction for me is its imaginative answers to so many questions: What's out there? Who's out there? What would it be like if time travel were possible?

Most of the answers seem so remote, but time travel? That we can do.

A TARDIS you can hold in your hands,

10. Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle by Michael Benson (5/5)

At first, I paged through the photos of stars, skipping the text, but then I saw the Horsehead Nebula and had to know if my identification was right. It was. I started over, reading Far Out from the beginning.

Each chapter has two to three pages of text plus captions in which Benson describes the phenomena pictured, how they interrelate or were formed, and how far away they are. The text illuminates the photography without bogging it down.

The book is arranged spatially/chronologically, starting with near and recent and progressing to the farthest reaches of space and beginning of the universe. It's designed so that it can be read front to back or back to front.

Brief looks at what was going on in Earth history at the same time as the photographed light was transmitted from distant galaxies help keep the scope fathomable. Since the speed of light is finite and the photographed stars, nebulae, and galaxies are 450 to 12.8 billion light years away, all of the photos are of the past even though they were taken recently*.

When you have a bit of context (read the captions!), the multitude of photos become mind-blowingly awesome. I knew a few things about the universe going in, but in my daily life I'd lost sight of the universe's vastness. This book not only restored but deepened my understanding of it. And made me want to be an astrophotographer.

In case you're unfamiliar with my rating system, a 5 out of 5 is super rare. I reserve it for my absolute favorite books. So check out Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle!

*Time travel, baby! I frakkin' love this stuff.

A year ago on TTaT: Grande due

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