A galactic-size photobook for the aspiring space traveler

December 11, 2013
Courtesy of Quercus.
Courtesy of Quercus.

If you’ve got an aspiring space traveler in the family, this could be the ultimate gift (short of a $250,000 seat on Virgin Galactic).

“Cosmos,” by Giles Sparrow  (Quercus, $99), is a spectacular tour of our galaxy — and beyond. Thoroughly updated with over 450 new color photographs and illustrations, it’s a Jupiter-size book that weighs in at 10 pounds. Everything about “Cosmos” seems designed to inspire galactic awe — from its black satin covers and star-sparkly slipcase to its archival paper.

But its the rich 13” x 17” photographs inside that will hypnotize you. Here’s the hellish surface of Venus created from data from the Magellan mission. Here’s a photo of Saturn’s little moon Enceladus in such close detail that it looks like an old aspirin tablet. (Sparrow notes that some astronomers believe it “may be the most likely haven for life elsewhere in the solar system.”)

Soon the book moves light years away from Earth, offering up pages that explode with Hubble photos of stars, nebula and galaxies — some reproduced on double-spreads that are almost 30” wide.

One gee-whiz innovation in this new edition of “Cosmos” is the inclusion of related videos. Once you’ve downloaded the free QuercusEye app, you can hold your smartphone over 14 of the pages and immediately see short video clips of the stars and galaxies in action. (My iPhone 5 crashed frequently when using this app, but, in any case, I didn’t find the videos as compelling as the book itself.)

I don’t know where I’ll ever be able to shelve it; for now it’s taking up most of the dining room table, and that’s just fine. 

 

 

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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Cara Kelly · December 11, 2013