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Planetarium

PlanetariumMy fas­ci­na­tion with out­er space is well-doc­u­ment­ed. I had star charts on my child­hood bed­room walls. But this book would have enthralled me … in fact, it still does.

The illus­tra­tions by engraver and print­mak­er Chris Wormell are detailed in a way that aids under­stand­ing. Scale is a tough con­cept for our com­pre­hen­sion but this book tack­les that with info­graph­ics that give a sense of how enor­mous our uni­verse is.

Arranged as though one is walk­ing through a muse­um, the var­i­ous gal­leries house sim­i­lar top­ics. In the Solar Sys­tem gallery, there are sep­a­rate two-page spreads for each plan­et, the moon, the dwarf plan­ets (poor Plu­to), comets and aster­oids, and the exo­plan­ets. The infor­ma­tion is short but juicy. Do you know what an exo­plan­et is?

For exam­ple, on the Mer­cury pages, there are three para­graphs of high­ly intrigu­ing infor­ma­tion, an expla­na­tion of what we’re look­ing at in the illus­tra­tion (a cross-sec­tion of Mercury’s inte­ri­or and what the sur­face of the plan­et looks like). We learn that “despite these fierce day­time tem­per­a­tures, there are pock­ets of water ice at Mercury’s north pole, where the plan­et has deep craters per­ma­nent­ly shield­ed from the sun’s heat.” Irre­sistible. How did the water get there? The text sup­plies the answer.

The oth­er gal­leries include the Sun, the night sky, the stars, galax­ies, and the Uni­verse. We’ve moved from close scale to enor­mous spaces. The illus­tra­tions for stel­lar births and black holes are out­stand­ing. And that’s choos­ing from among some beau­ti­ful depic­tions of the mys­ter­ies of space.

Black Holes
illus­tra­tion copy­right Chris Wormell, Plan­e­tar­i­um, Big Pic­ture Press / Can­dlewick Press, 2018

Raman Prin­ja brings his exten­sive knowl­edge as a pro­fes­sor of astro­physics at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don to the text. I admire the way this duo has tack­led some­thing so vast and made knowl­edge about space seem to be with­in our grasp. They will cer­tain­ly pro­pel read­ers to learn more.

If you have a Star Wars, Star Trek, Expanse, or sci-fi fan in your home or school, they will absorb this book. A sci­ence geek will be thrilled. A child with ques­tions about the night sky will love hav­ing the answers. Writ­ten at a lev­el that a deter­mined fourth grad­er can com­pre­hend, it’s appro­pri­ate for any child or adult who wants to under­stand the real­i­ty behind the sto­ries they’re drawn to watch and read.

High­ly recommended.

Plan­e­tar­i­um
curat­ed by Chris Wormell and Raman Prin­ja
Big Pic­ture Press, Can­dlewick Press, 2018

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