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Planets, Stars, and Galaxies: A Visual Encyclopedia of Our Universe Hardcover – October 9, 2007
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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.)
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
beautiful pictures, my grandson will enjoy this and all the information that it is loaded with.Published 8 months ago by vanessa Ree
It is a great book but it's identical with the National Geographic Kids Space Encyclopedia. Very disappointing to get the book, open it and it literally is the same book with a... Read morePublished 11 months ago by David D. Combs
I bought this as a gift for a middle school student. The artwork is beautiful and it's written at a very good level. He loves it.Published on May 28, 2014 by Linda Long
The way I see it -- the more a kid immerses into the knuckle-and-bone 19th century skills of reading, inquiring, connecting -- away from instant gratification of technology -- the... Read morePublished on January 24, 2014 by dzounz
A great book with outsanding visuals. I have met and listened to the author's lectures on the same subject as the book. Read morePublished on May 14, 2012 by Spence
Bought this for my 9yr old grandson who has taken a real interest in the stars. Hope this will help him begin a real study of the heavens.Published on December 20, 2008 by Claudia Lynne Pittman