Upfront: I’ve been an avid reader of National Geographic since 1969. I usually catch up these days at the public library, as I never wanted to recycle their magazines. And those volumes get heavy as the years pile up. I could see myself with piles of hundreds of yellow-bordered zines piled high on sagging bookshelves … but I’m not really into hoarding. Also, my wife would certainly have something to say about it.
NG used to distill a handful of related articles into books on a topic. I remember the first time I got one–Australia, I think–it occurred to me this narrative was familiar. And indeed, I already had the book … in articles found in separate magazines.
The Hubble Cosmos doesn’t appear to be one of those best-of books. I borrowed it from the library for a three-week stay on my bedside bookshelf. The pictures range from pretty to pretty inspiring to awe-inspiring. The text tells the story of the Hubble Space Telescope as lensed through its various observations and discoveries. There are touchstones in the history of astronomy and physics, figures like Galileo, Einstein, Hubble, and others who are not household names, but contributed mightily to our understanding of the universe. The story of the telescope itself is fascinating, woven into the narrative.
Each chapter is a “moment,” and there are twenty-five of them. It was a surprise to me how broad the mission of this telescope has been. It was also heartening to read how inspiring the images sent back from Earth orbit have been to ordinary citizens.
This book can be enjoyed as a coffee-table tome: just look at the pictures. Even little kids would like that. Chapter narratives are broken up by lots of images, as well as sidebars that touch on related topics. The text is accessible to high-school-age Earthlings and the science therein is good, not at all dumbed down, but gives a good basic explanation of things like dark matter, exploding stars, exoplanet atmospheres, cosmology, and other information.
On the NG site the book will set a purchaser back $50, but I’d say it’s worth it. If you or someone you know has a love for space and heavenly things, you and/or they will return to The Hubble Cosmos over and over. Highly recommended.