The Cosmic Tourist came out in 2012, and I picked it up more or less straight away. It was probably Sir Patrick Moore’s last book, although he did have another Astronomy Year out posthumously. This is more of a coffee table book than a read, although it has lots of content, and deserves time for study.
The Cosmic Tourist
by Brian May, Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott
Take your seats for the greatest tour ever – one that encompasses no less than the whole of the Universe. En route, we stop off to gaze at 100 amazing sights – from asteroids to zodiacal dust and from orbit around the Earth to beyond the most distant galaxies.
We start right here on Earth, with your tour guides: the three intrepid cosmic voyagers Patrick Moore, Brian May and Chris Lintott. They explain the sights – what they are, and how they fit into the astronomical zoo of familiar and curious objects and phenomena – and convey their own personal enthusiasm for each marvel you encounter. The images present the extraordinary beauty of the Universe as seen through the eyes of the biggest and best telescopes on Earth and in space, and occasionally in the backyards of expert amateur observers. [goodreads]
I confess I haven’t finished this yet. It might take me a few years to do so. The three authors, two gurus of The Sky at Night TV programme and one regular visitor (after he gave up his full-time music career and finished his PhD), may only be taking the reader to 100 amazing sights, but they give each one a thorough examination–or as much as can supported with observations and fantastic images.
In fact, we start on Earth, and then check out planetary phenomena seen from space before arriving at the Moon. There are a great many amazing things to see on the Moon, but most of them are craters, with different forms and causes, and yes, they are interesting*. But maybe I’ll go back to them later, as I got a little bored by them, and went on… to the Sun! Then the tour of the planets. I might skip Saturn, because, you know, I reviewed the Saturn System recently. And eventually we’ll leave our solar system and get into the sorts of things that I might find more interesting, because I don’t know much about them, or only of things heard in passing. Like exoplanets or all shapes, sizes and combinations.
The text accompanying the photographs is quite small, to fit it into a reasonable space in this large format full colour book. I found the style a little jarring, but if you know the style of A Sky At Night, and cross it with Stargazing Now for a younger or newer Cosmic Tourist, you’ll know the style. Chatty, with formal overtones. That may be another reason I can’t read it for very long. It isn’t meant to be read straight through. It’s a dip-into book, and a very beautiful one that people have put a lot of effort into making as beautiful and all-encompassing as possible.
Your young teenage astronomy enthusiast might well enjoy this for Christmas.
*A passing comment about the ‘first men’s’ bootprints made me pause and think… and then I had an idea for a story.
So that’s two ‘dip-into’ non-fiction books I’ll have on the go for another few years.