Cover image for Other worlds : images of the cosmos from earth and space
Other worlds : images of the cosmos from earth and space
Trefil, James, 1938-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : National Geographic Society, [1999]

Physical Description:
255 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 32 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Subject Term:
Geographic Term:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library QB501 .T65 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

On Order



Text and images from the Hubble Space Telescope, Voyager, Pathfinder, and other space missions celebrate the universe as humankind knows it.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

If it isn't already "the most famous photograph ever taken by [the] Hubble" Space Telescope--as Wilkie and Rosselli suggest--the Hubble's portrait of pillars of gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula, with new stars coming to life some 7,000 years ago, will surely be the most familiar Hubble photo once this season's remarkable astronomy books reach the shelves. The image graces the front dust jackets of Other Worlds and Visions of Heaven, is inset on the back dust jacket of Magnificent Universe, and is featured and discussed in those books and in Unfolding Our Universe. Former Astronomy magazine editor Burnham's focus is too narrow to include that Hubble picture. But Great Comets, too, is lavishly illustrated, with images of great comets Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp, taken by both amateur and professional astrophotographers during the comets' 1996 and 1997 flybys. Burnham celebrates the great comets and describes new knowledge their study has provided about the composition of the universe. He discusses the Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp passages in detail and considers past and planned scientific missions to study comets, as well as the cultural impact of comets through the ages. We are now, Burnham suggests, "in the curious position of discarding a former superstition while keeping a wary eye on Earth's neighborhood." Burnham's final chapter provides print and Web resources on comets. Nicolson's Unfolding Our Universe is the most academic of these featured books: although it includes plenty of fascinating deep-space photographs, it also offers dozens of diagrams and charts that clarify astronomical basics. Nicolson's explanations are sometimes a bit dry, but beginning astronomy buffs will relish his discussions of, for example, how various types of telescopes work and the physics of star formation. Three brief appendixes summarize useful information on measurement, the solar system, and the brightest and nearest stars. The Hubble Space Telescope is, in a sense, the center of Wilkie and Rosselli's Visions of Heaven: their narrative includes the story of how Hubble was lifted into space and how its inadequately focused instruments were mended. When images from other sources are included, the authors' major intent is to demonstrate how Hubble has improved scientists' understanding of what's going on "out there." In other respects, this British volume by a physicist and a journalist adopts the same objective as Croswell and Trefil: to use these astonishing pictures to illustrate current scientific knowledge about planets, nebulae, and galaxies, and about distant places and distant times. Lack of an index is their volume's one weakness. The big dogs in the battle for astronomy shelf space (and, no doubt, coffee-table space) are Croswell and Trefil, award-winning science writers known for enabling nonspecialists to grasp complex subjects. Trefil, a George Mason University physics professor, opens Other Worlds with a helpful analogy: he visualizes the universe as a huge matryoshka doll, with our entire solar system in the two smallest dolls and five more layers of "dolls" beyond the known universe. This concentric image serves Trefil well as he examines the birth of the solar system and then its inner and outer planets. He closes with a discussion of the universe beyond our solar system--"The Great Beyond." Croswell, author of Planet Quest (1997), also moves outward from our solar system to stars, galaxies, and the universe itself, but well over half the book focuses on stars and galaxies. Thus, readers will find thorough explanations of star spots and star clusters, the event horizon, and galactic empires. Like Trefil, he includes images from a number of sources; like Trefil, Wilkie and Rosselli, and Nicolson, Croswell closes with a thoughtful discussion of the cosmological questions the study of astronomy inevitably raises. A glossary and suggested further reading are appended, along with five tables of data on our neighboring planets, moons, stars, and local group galaxies. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

Recently there's been a run of coffee-table books combining elegant astronomical photographs with brief, friendly exegeses of the science behind them (e.g., Ken Croswell's Magnificent Universe, Forecasts, Sept. 6). But for adults and young people who enjoy brilliant, striking imagesÄhere, of lunar craters, of Neptune's Great Dark Spot, of distant galaxies, of mysterious, color-coded gas cloudsÄthe more space photos the better, and this collection furnishes plenty of splendid ones. Trefil (The Moment of Creation), a professor of physics at George Mason University, does a fine job of making available to readers what astronomers know about Saturn, supernovas and so on, while finding room for colorful tidbits: Uranus's slim rings, for example, "reflect light about as poorly as charcoal," and circle that giant planet in just eight hours. Astronomy students use a cute mnemonic ("O Be a Fine Guy, Kiss Me") for the seven-letter codes that denote a star's brightness, from O (quite hot) to M (cool, for a star). Each planet (Earth included) gets its own photos and its own prose; other topics include the sun, the moon, "The Birth of the Solar System," quasars, black holes and SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). The photographs themselves, many of them color-enhanced, are stunning. Stars in the Sagittarius cluster gleam like gems from a decadent tiara; a planetary nebula called the Egg looks more like a purple-winged tropical bird, while the Antennae galaxies in collision lend themselves to a magnificent two-page spread of lavender and taupe, white, gold and amethyst. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Google Preview