"In addition to being one of the greatest scientific instruments of all time, the Hubble Space Telescope's [HST] has given humanity a spectacular legacy of beautiful images of the universe. The best of these are displayed--and explained--in this book."
The above is found in the introduction of this mesmerizing and informative book by Terence Dickinson. He is the author of fifteen astronomy books. He was at one time staff astronomer at planetariums in Toronto and Rochester, New York. Dickinson has received numerous awards including the New York Academy of Sciences' Book of the Year Award. He has an asteroid named after him.
This book is divided into two intermingled parts: (1) images or photographs (2) text.
The images are fantastic. They are of the HST's greatest discoveries and latest images. This book contains more than 300 HST colour image. Note that a few images are not from the HST.
The text contains very comprehensive descriptions and explanations with supportive interpretive illustrations. All descriptions and explanations are grounded in science. I, personally, learned quite a bit from reading this text.
The quotation that begins this review is an example of a brief description that is located at the beginning of the introduction. Such a description is found at the beginning of each chapter:
(1) "The flagship of NASA's Great Observatory program, the [HST] is one of the most ambitious, legendary, and nail-biting science endeavours in human history. The payoff has been immeasurable: Hubble has given us the universe."
(2) "The universe was a different place in 1990, the year the [HST] was launched. The most powerful telescopes on Earth could see only halfway across the universe. Astronomers didn't know whether planets orbited other stars. Even the age of the universe was uncertain by a large margin."
(3) "Astronomy is a pre-eminently a visual science. Astronomers cannot collect rocks for analysis...or test chemical reactions in a lab. Everything must be deduced from the light that is emitted or reflected from far away in space."
(4) "Our Galaxy's industry is making stars. If we could view our Galaxy from high above [its]...stellar disk, it would resemble a sprawling city with a bright downtown hub, burgeoning suburbs of Sun-like stars, and avenues of young blue stars and nebulas. Interspersed are the raw materials for making stars: huge clouds of cold hydrogen gas laced with dust."
(5) "Stars are the universe's basic building blocks and, in many ways, are fundamental to the existence of planets and life in the universe. Over billions of years, they have collected themselves into a hierarchy of structures, star clusters, galaxies, and immense clusters of galaxies."
(6) "When [most stars'] nuclear fusion fuel is exhausted , they slowly fade to black. But...there are exceptions to this scenario. Some stars, particularly the most massive ones, end with a bang or a series of violent death throes. The death of a star occasionally produces a detonation so powerful, it can be seen halfway across the universe."
(7) "As spectacular as it looks in Hubble's views, the universe remains largely hidden from us. Its 10 billion trillion stars are the only truly luminous form of matter in the cosmos. They are essentially lights draped over an unseen structure. All the stars and galaxies represent only a fraction of the mass of the entire assembly. The rest of the scaffolding is made up of a mysterious substance called dark matter."
(8) "Galaxies are the majestic city-states of the universe. Astronomers estimate there are at least 100 billion galaxies in the known universe. Yet less than a century ago, astronomers knew of just one galaxy: our Milky Way."
(9) "Although the [HST] was designed to probe the most distant reaches of the universe, it also provides exquisitely sharp views of the Earth's companion worlds in the solar system."
(10) "Hubble's cosmic portfolio is full of grand views of familiar celestial objects: galaxies, nebulas, planets, and myriad stars. But some Hubble images are downright bizarre...Among the strangest pictures are those of events that come and go unexpectedly. Many of these we've never seen or not seen clearly, until Hubble's sharp vision was turned on them."
Finally, this book is like a one-volume library of Hubble's achievements and a complete record of the HST's enormous contribution to astronomy.
In conclusion, I can't say it enough. This book is SPECTACULAR! I cannot thank award-winning astronomy writer Terence Dickinson enough for providing to the citizens of planet Earth this informative, captivating, astonishing, and beautiful book of the Hubble Space Telescope's greatest discoveries and latest Images!!
(first published 2012; acknowledgements; introduction; 10 chapters; main narrative 295 pages; resources; index; photo credits; about the author)
<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>