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Planetfall: New Solar System Visions Hardcover – October 1, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Michael Benson, a writer, filmmaker, and photographer, is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on astronomical imagery. His book Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle was heralded in the New York Times as an extraordinary achievement: “If you don’t have your own Hubble Space Telescope, this book is the next best thing.” He lives in New York City.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (October 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1419704222
  • ISBN-13: 978-1419704222
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 0.9 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Douglas on November 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michael Benson's new photo-essay book about our Solar System is of the same high quality as his two previous masterworks, "Beyond" and "Far Out."

His previous work, "Far Out," covered the enormous size and timescape of the entire universe, as it is perceived by us.

This time, in "Planetfall," Benson returns home to our own cosmic backyard. He reveals the Solar System to us using the latest images from the most recent generation of planetary explorers, most notably the Cassini Spacecraft's stunning images of Jupiter and Saturn. There are also magnificent images of the Sun (which are the best I have ever seen published in any book), of Mars, and of our own planet Earth and its moon, taken from other space probes.

This book concentrates on those newer, deep-space images of the planets (and some of their moons) that many Americans may not have seen yet in other books, and also adds some of the best images from the surface of Mars taken recently by the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. He skips Mercury and Venus, but that did not bother me because there is not much to see there, and this left more room for the stunning images of Jupiter and Saturn, Mars, and the Earth, which are the cornerstone of the book.

The book is light on text and heavy on imagery, and I found it just the right balance for this type of "coffee table book." Benson allows us to see our Solar System as we would if we were space voyagers on an interstellar mission, arriving at our solar system without ever having seen it before. The book is first and foremost a visual feast.

But the relatively brief essays are still insightful, even poetic, and relate the images in the book to our modern imaginations, fueled by our popular culture and how we were raised on science fiction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nick on January 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Many of the pictures in this book are breathtakingly beautiful. Totally worth it. My very minor gripes are: First, I wish it was more comprehensive in its coverage of the solar system. There isn't really any coverage of Mercury, Venus, Uranus, or Neptune (or the demoted Pluto), but not many nice pictures of those exist at anywhere on Earth anyway. Also, it sounds like Benson almost intended this book as an addendum to his other solar system book, "Beyond". Maybe there's more comprehensive coverage there. Second, the captions are all in the very back of the book. It's a little frustrating trying to flip through the pictures and read the captions at the same time. Third, many of the Earth photos are of smoke from burning forests. Benson pessimistically focuses on that a little more than I would like.

Overall, though, my complaints are very minor. This book is full of stunning photos of the celestial bodies of our solar system. Enjoy them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stu on December 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Planetfall contains some of the most compelling space photography ever published. High art. I can't praise this tome more than this week's review in the NYT:

A Scrapbook of Our Relationship With the UniverseBy DANA JENNINGS

Published: December 10, 2012

In her excellent 2011 collection, "Life on Mars," the poet Tracy K. Smith writes of "seeing the high beams of a million galaxies flick on at twilight." That's the kind of wonder I felt as Michael Benson's "Planetfall" carried me away.

Mr. Benson is a filmmaker, writer and photographer who specializes in letting the reader reach escape velocity from the terrestrial comfort of an easy chair. His previous books -- both from Abrams -- include "Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes" (2003) and "Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle" (2009).

His goal in "Planetfall," he writes, is to present "a retrospective look at the visual legacy of 21st-century space exploration." Mr. Benson reminds us that it has been just 50 years since the first spacecraft waltzed with another planet, when an American Mariner probe dipped past Venus in December 1962. He then takes us on an interplanetary pleasure cruise that stretches from the Sun to Saturn. All retrospectives, art and otherwise, should shock us awake the way this one does.

In a sense, Mr. Benson has scrapbooked an up-to-date album of our solar system using mostly primary-image data from NASA and European Space Agency missions from 2000 to 2012. And so, among dozens of striking images, we're privileged to see Earthrise on the Moon and the restless sand seas of Mars; sunspots in bloom and the cryptic moons of Jupiter; and the rings of Saturn looking like the cosmic grooves of a very long-playing album.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By JLJ TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is worthy of being in your collection of astronomical photography books, because it offers so many super-high-resolution photographs of the planets and the sun. There are no photos of stars (other than our own sun), no nebula or constellations or galaxies... just our own neighboring planets - that is the focus of this particular book. This book offers us the best available collection of the photos that have been taken within the past ten years only. One should bear in mind that some of the greatest astronomic photographs are more than ten years old, and so by definition, they will not be part of this book that covers just the past decade of astronomical planetary photography.
I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 stars because I am a bit disappointed that the majority of the pictures are ultra-close-ups on parts of a planet or ring system showing just a very limited range of colors (for example: just black and white and blue.... or just black and white and amber). Also, many of the photos actually don't seem to be extremely high resolution. (Though many others, such as the surface of the sun, or the surface of mars, are strikingly high-resoloution and spectacular). This is not the fault of the author / publisher / compiler... that's just the way it is, and this book catalogs and showcases the past ten years of planetary photography as well as one could possible realistically hope that it would.
If you are looking for a book that shows the colorful awesomeness and jaw-dropping beauty of the universe... a book that focusses more on parts of the universe far more distant (star clusters and nebulae) has more "wow" factor than this book. But if you would like a compendium of the best of planetary photography over just the past ten years... you cannot do better than this very well-done volume.
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