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Planets, Stars, and Galaxies: A Visual Encyclopedia of Our Universe Hardcover – October 9, 2007

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Planets, Stars, and Galaxies: A Visual Encyclopedia of Our Universe + 13 Planets: The Latest View of the Solar System (National Geographic Kids) + Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond (National Geographic Kids)
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This text introduces readers to the most current information available about the universe. Information is presented in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. The author writes in a conversational tone and begins with an introduction to the universe that includes how it began and how we know what we know. Readers are then taken on a virtual tour of the solar system and presented with information about the newly designated 11 planets and their varying categories. Fact boxes are provided for each of the planets with such information as the planet’s mass, density, length of day and length of year (measured in Earth days), average surface temperature, and more. Comets, the Kuiper Belt, and asteroids are also discussed. This is followed by information on the stars and galaxies. The final two chapters address whether we are alone in the universe and where science and research might take us in the future. The book features bright, eye-catching illustrations that author Aguilar created on his computer. In addition, there are many vibrant photographs in the book that were taken by cameras here on Earth as well as by satellites and telescopes. The layout features colorful, well-annotated images on every page spread. The images nicely supplement the text and help to relay concepts. In one of the chapters, images with a binocular symbol indicate objects that can be seen in the night sky with binoculars. The book concludes with four different time lines; “Time Line of the Solar System,” “Time Line of Humans on Earth,” “Time Line of Astronomy to 1961,” and “Time Line of Astronomy 1963 to the Present,” which covers through 2020, when spacecraft in the Constellation program are scheduled to return human explorers to the moon. Also included are a glossary, an index, and a list of additional reading and Web sites. With appeal for students doing research, as well as the lay reader, this colorful resource is recommended for upper-elementary, middle-school, high-school, and public libraries. Grades 5-12. --Maren Ostergard

About the Author

David A. Aguilar is the Director of Science Information at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Previously, he was the Director of the Fiske Planetarium and Science Center at the University of Colorado. An expert in astronomy and a talented artist, his work reflects his passion for bringing the wonders of space to wider audiences. In this, his first book for National Geographic, he presents the latest discoveries in space to young imaginations in an engaging and scientifically accurate way. David Aguilar lives in Boston, Massachusetts.


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books; Reprint edition (October 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426301707
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426301704
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.6 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #765,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Internationally recognized author, lecturer, astronomy expert, naturalist and space artist, David's expertise lies in showing us the fascinating connections between the universe and ourselves.

He is the AWARD-WINNING author and illustrator of seven National Geographic books including: "ALIEN WORLDS"; "SPACE ENCYCLOPEDIA: A TOUR OF OUR SOLAR SYSTEM AND BEYOND"; "SUPER STARS!" and the popular "13 PLANETS", winner 2011 Eureka Gold Award. Smithsonian Books will publish his next three books beginning with "COSMIC CATASTROPHES" in 2015.

He has been featured on the BBC, History Channel's "UNIVERSE" Series, ABC News, Time magazine, US News, CNN, NY Times, USA Today, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, Astronomy, Scientific American, and NPR among many others.

David is the past Director of Public Affairs and Science Information at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; past Marketing Communications Director for Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation; past Director of the Fiske Planetarium and Science Center and the producer of the Science Discovery Program at University of Colorado Boulder; and former Marketing Director for PBS's Emmy-winning NOVA series, Evolution.

In 2015 he joined the New Horizons Spacecraft Team as part of NASA's "Mission to Pluto" to lead media communications on the Pluto flyby in July 2015.

As a Smithsonian Scholar Enrichment Lecturer and Harvard Alumni Association Travel Leader, he illustrates the dynamic connections between science and nature of the regions he visits - always fresh, always changing, always something vibrant and new!

In 2010, asteroid 1990DA was designated to honor his internationally recognized contributions to science education and public outreach. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the newly proposed Aspen Science Center; member IAAA (International Association of Astronomical Artists), and the AAS (American Astronomical Society). He has the added distinction of being a Grammy-nominated musician along with his former band on "Love is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970".

David and wife Shirley reside at their home and observatory under the very dark and starry skies outside Aspen, CO.

For more information please visit: and

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Mark Pfennigstag on July 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book published by the National Geographic Society, known usually for their factual accuracy, is beautiful in its pictorial content as other reviewers have said, but contains serious errors in the text. If you are thinking of buying for your 3-year-old, or your 5-year-old, they'll love the pictures and won't care about the mistakes. If you're contemplating buying it for your 6th grader's report on anything within the bounds of the solar system, don't.

The text on Mars states in its opening paragraph that Mars is the same size as Earth and is the planet nearest us. Wrong twice! In fact Mars is barely over 1/2 the diameter of Earth, and Venus orbits closer to Earth than Mars. (Diameters: Earth, 7926 miles; Mars, 4221 miles. Orbit of Venus is about 35 million miles from Earth's, Mars orbit is about 49 million miles from us. Their orbits, like Earth's, are elliptical, so I quote averages.)

On the Mars page, the text does not agree with the chart or illustrations, which are correct.

The asteroid / dwarf planet Ceres is described as being "roughly equal to the size of our moon". Not even close! Sparing you the math, let's just say the Ceres is approximately 1/4 the size of our Moon. The text is again in disagreement with its own charts. As before, the charts are correct, the text is in error.

Those mistakes were found just in browsing. Extensive examination may find more - but the errors above are enough to cast doubt on the rest of the book.

(Reviewer is a librarian, amateur astronomer, parent of 4, grandfather of 3.)
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By LonestarReader on February 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
David Aguilar describes the planets of our solar system as well as dark matter, neutron stars, nebula, and many other phenomena of space in this book.

What makes this book different from others on the subject, are the glowing illustrations that Aguilar created from NASA and telescope photographs . The photos are enhanced and Photoshopped to offer a "you are there" presence to the reader. What would it feel like to be in the middle of the Kuiper Belt? Well, pages 62 and 63 give us an idea. Imaginative space ships tour planets and space suited explorers stand on the surface of one of Jupiter's moons.

Aguilar fills the text with factual information. He explains how a star burns in a graphic that depicts the collision of two protons and the release of energy that is starlight. The location of supernova, nebula and other objects are marked in constellation maps when they are visible through binoculars.

The author has projected reader into the galaxy, traveling exploring and experiencing the wonders of the universe. We live in a time when the Space Shuttle program seems routine and low Earth orbit is the best we can do. The book could fire the imagination of kids who have seen the spectacular images of the space telescopes and now think, "been there-done that." Chapters, "Are we Alone?" and "Dreams of Tomorrow" ponder what is "alien life" and ideas for the future of space engineering.

This book fires the imagination and could also inspire a young person today to look skyward.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A. Courie on September 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Aguilar's "Planets, Stars, and Galaxies: A Visual Encyclopedia of Our Universe" is a beautiful and well-done book that does a very good job giving a general overview of the latest astronomical knowledge. This book even includes the latest on the new designation of dwarf planets and Pluto's demotion.

The book is full of beautiful photos and computer illustrations of the planets, nebulae, neutron stars, and galaxies. These illustrations really bring the book to life. They are enhanced by well-written, informative text.

Although this is a great book, I do have a couple of criticisms. The first is that the tour of the solar system is done through a narrative device: a spaceship that flies from Earth to the sun and then back out. Venus is thus covered first, followed by Mercury, the sun, then Mars, then (after the rest of the planets are covered) finishing with Earth. While that is consistent with the narrative device, it's confusing to anyone just scanning the book.

Also, there are a handful of errors in the book: The book states that Mars is the closest planet to the Earth; on one chart, Jupiter's moons are incorrectly labeled (my 3 year-old correctly identified the pictures, but I mistakenly corrected him based on the incorrect labels); Callisto is referred to in one place as "Saturn's moon;" and the book states that Voyager 1 and 2 visited Jupiter in 1973. I was surprised to see such obvious errors get past the editors and appear in a National Geographic book.

I bought for my three year-old, who has fallen in love with the planets and stars. Although the book is a bit advanced for him, the beautiful illustrations and straightforward text make this a wonderful book to own.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Cleo on May 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book so my 8 year old son and I could spend some quality time together doing something we both love, learning about the stars. This book is excellent. It is filled with the most beautiful pictures and is written in a way that kids and adults can enjoy reading together or apart. My son and I enjoy learning about the planets, galaxies, stars, and everything in between. This book is very educational and fun. If you have a child(7-14)who is interested in space, they will love this book.
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