on February 22, 2000
Written in the style of a traveller's guide book, the authors take you on an interplanetary cruise describing each body in detail. The book runs from the largest (the Sun) to the smallest objects (comets and tiny asteroids) in the solar system. The illustrations are either photos from spacecraft that have visited the various planets and moons, or are hypothetical paintings based on what the surfaces may look like. One particularly striking painting is of the surface of Pluto, with the sun as a mere bright speck in the sky.
I'd recommend this book to anyone with a passing interest in astronomy or the planets, it's a great read and never gets obtusely technical. Ron Miller and William K. Hartmann are without a doubt the finest planetary artists around today.
on June 1, 2006
This excellent coffee-table book is a fascinating exploration of the solar system. It is gratifying to see this book, now in its 3rd edition, revised regularly to reflect the many continuing new discoveries of the last 25 years.
This survey, written for the layman, thoroughly covers all of the important worlds of our solar system. It also discusses our solar system's formation and what we know about extrasolar planets.
Most books on the solar system introduce each planet in turn from Mercury outward to Pluto. This book starts with Jupiter and proceeds in descending order by size. This unusual approach emphasizes that these worlds vary as a continuum, encouraging comparison between small planets and large satellites, between satellites and asteroids, between asteroids and comets.
Part I covers the 28 largest worlds in the solar system, from Jupiter to Ceres. Part II covers selected interesting worlds, such as Halley's Comet, asteroids Vesta, Eros, Hektor, and Chiron, and moons Amalthea, Mimas and Miranda. Part III discusses extrasolar planets. A glossary covers terms such as centaurs, differentiation, millibars, and retrograde.
The illustrations and photography are especially worthwhile. Miller and Hartmann dramatically illustrate the wonder and majesty of space with a mix of actual photographs and artist's renditions.
The book reflects the current indecision regarding Pluto. However, the authors opine that the solar system is most sensibly viewed as having eight planets, with Pluto the largest Kuiper Belt object and Ceres the largest asteroid.
Two other newly-discovered trans-Neptunian objects receive a chapter: Sedna, possibly the first known Oort Cloud object, and 2004 DW (now called Orcus), the largest-known TNO at press time.
Press time for this book was spring 2005. The book therefore includes a Huygens image of Titan taken in January, but just missed the uproar caused by the July discovery of 2003 UB313/"Xena".
Surprisingly, there is no table listing the diameters, periods, and other vital statistics of the planets and moons. The only other drawback that comes to mind is that there is no chapter devoted to the Sun.
On another plane, Miller and Hartmann use the solar system's diversity to emphasize our good fortune in having such a wonderful Earth, and remind us to take better care of our home. They also speculate about the possibility of past or present life on Mars, Europa, Titan, and extrasolar planets. They conclude by speaking of a Copernican revolution, away from Earth and humanity as the literal and figurative center of the universe, towards a humbler view of our place in the cosmos.
The unorthodox presentation and the spectacular illustrations earn this book a place in any library on astronomy.
on January 1, 2000
An excellent book with stunning original hand-painted art. This book discusses the worlds of our solar system rather than the planets. Each body, no matter what pigeon hole or classification it has been placed into in the past, is treated as a unique world with its own landscape, sky, weather, and character. Planets, moons, asteroids, comets, etc. are organized by size rather than type, yielding some very surprising revelations.
on June 20, 2014
I loved the initial version of this book, and this one is far better. The space probes gave the authors so much more to work with in describing the other worlds in our solar system. I read it to escape, and fantasize about actually being on one of the moons of Saturn as it rises over the horizon. Great photo, brilliant artwork and easy to read text. Highly recommended!
Of all the sciences, astronomy has always been my personal favorite, and it's typically a pleasure to look through a book filled with pictures of planets and stars. The Grand Tour by Ron Miller and William Hartmann is one such pleasure.
The Grand Tour offers a look at the solar system (outside of the sun), but unlike most such books, does not opt for the standard start-at-Mercury and end-at-Pluto approach. Instead, Miller and Hartmann treat their book as a travel guide for some aliens from another star. Such visitors would notice the biggest objects first and work their way down to the smaller worlds.
Thus, the book starts with Jupiter, providing some general statistics (gravity, size, etc.) and a small essay about the largest planet. The big feature, however, are the pictures: both photographs and wonderful paintings that offer views that we haven't received from telescopes or probes. The first in this chapter is an example: a view of Jupiter from the surface of Europa as the planet eclipses the sun.
We then go through the other "major worlds": the remaining gas giants take the next three slots, followed by Earth, Venus and Mars. Then the chapters begin to alternate between moons and planets: Ganymede and Titan precede Mercury, and then five more moons are listed (including our own) before Pluto comes up in a chapter shared with its companion, Charon (this edition of the book was written in 2005, prior to Pluto's demotion from planetary status, though the debate is discussed). There are a few other major worlds, down to the asteroid Ceres, and then a section on selected smaller worlds (moons, asteroids, and comets).
If you are well-versed in astronomy and want to learn more about the planets, the Grand Tour doesn't offer all that much that you haven't read before. (On the other hand, if you're unfamiliar with this topic, the material is well-written and informative.) But I don't think that's the real purpose of this book: instead, it is to provide both real and speculative views of the star system, and here it succeeds very well.
on May 22, 2008
Quite a few astronomy books have a tendency to be either dry and boring or so technically advanced that they are beyond the grasp of the casual folks interested in space topics. NOT THIS ONE! The Grand Tour: A Traveler's Guide to The Solar System is a brilliantly fresh and exciting book full of engaging commentary and breath-taking photos, illustrations, and art. In every sense, it is a grand tour! It's entertainment and education wrapped into one power-package.
For those interested in and / or beginning study in comparative planetology, this is an excellent primer, chock full of lots of foundation concepts. For those teaching solar system science, this is a must have resource! For librarians, this is a jewel for your collection! For artists and art-lovers who enjoy space themes, this book presents some fantastic material. For extremely advanced astro-folks, this book may not fully satisfy the hard-core science-minded, but hopefully, they can appreciate its value in generating excitement for space topics and exploration.
I knew when I saw the book's cover I was in for a real treat--a holiday in the solar system, and I wasn't disappointed. A big fan of the Red Planet Mars, I was especially interested in the Tour's Mars commentary and images. I agree with the author's opening comments about the red planet: "Mars is unchallenged as the planet of intrigue. Rover's have crawled its surface, robotic arms have reached out and analyzed its minerals, and orbiters have sent back data from overhead--and Mars just continues to grow more fascinating and provocative, in terms of its possible similarities to Earth-like conditions" (84). I absolutely love the eerie, other-worldly space art view of Mars from its moon Deimos, page 85. The section called "Phobos and Deimos: Moonlets of Mars" is very impressive (pages 248-253).
Other note worthy illustrations (I offer descriptive labels here for your information. In the book, the author comments on the images in well-placed captions) are the following:
"Pluto eclipsing the Sun as viewed from Charon" page 3 / space art
"Saturn seen from Rhea" page 34/ space art
"Ribbon like Clouds" page 36 / Voyager photo
"Magnificent View of Saturn by Cassini Spacecraft" page 37 / photo
"Saturn's Rings as possibly viewed from its atmosphere" page 39 / space art
"Titan illustrated--then and now" page 117 / space art
This tour is well-worth the "ticket" price, and you don't even have to pack! :)
on May 18, 2014
This great book is what started my daughter's obsession over the planets and its moon. " It is very Unique," she says. From the colorful and very outstanding paintings to the graphic 3D images. I give this book a ten. This great book takes you all over our solar system. The detailed information given is just out there. I absolutely love this book and recommend it for anyone trying to learn about our solar system.
on October 8, 2012
I read the first edition of this book in 5th grade, shortly after Voyager started beaming back images to Earth. The paintings back then captured my imagination and led to a lifelong love of astronomy. Glad to see that the authors/artists have continued to keep this book current. I think it's still written at the right level for a science-minded kid that doesn't want to be talked down to but still more approachable than your standard science journal.
on November 24, 2005
'The Grand Tour' is a nice small-format cofee-table-type book, with a modest selection of actual pictures from various space probes and a greater number of pleasing artwork renditions of the varios planetary bodies (54 in all, according to the cover..I didn't count them myself), and a small number of simple diagrams. The accompanying text seems pretty up-to-date and accurate, but does not go into any great depth explaining subjects such as solar system objects' composition, evolution, atmospheric structure and dynamics, and possible exobiology; most of these subjects are touched upon, but only superficially, and there isn't consistent treatment from object to object, neither in text structure/organization nor content scope. The organizational scheme presenting the solar system bodies from largest to smallest is a novel departure from the standard closest-to-farthest scheme. Buy this book mainly for the artwork, as a visual complement to more scholarly books about the solar system in your library.
on July 24, 2006
I prefer photographs (or images made from spacecraft) over paintings, and I bought this book to raise my kids' interest in space. Well, it was my prejudice. The book has loads of the newest images, including some from the Cassini-Huygens mission, and the paintings are great, in the sense that they are not fantasy, but "down-to-earth" renderings of wiews we could have if we were there. Much better than I expected. And it is not only the images. Great text, great reading.