I came across this summation of book reviews pertaining to our Apollo 11 Book yesterday, and it sums it up nicely.
The best astronomy and space books of 2019
Our pick of the top astronomy and space books we reviewed over the past 12 months.
By Iain Todd
December 4, 2019 at 12:43 pm
There is a wealth of books published each year covering all aspects of space, astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology, from practical stargazing to histories of spaceflight, and from the latest burning cosmic questions to beginners’ guides explaining the basic principles of our Solar System, Galaxy and Universe.
In each issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine we pick the best astronomy and space books that have caught our eye that month and send them out to our expert reviewers for full scrutiny.
Below is a list of some of the top space and astronomy books we reviewed in 2019. If you’re on the hunt for a Christmas present to give to an astronomer in your life, or perhaps searching for a good read to escape the festive hubbub, look no further.
Our reviewer said: Kerss manages to cover a broad range of nitty-gritty lunar facts, ranging from the phases to the Apollo missions and a practical section on lunar photography using a smartphone or DSLR. The most exciting and informative segment is the ‘Introduction to the Lunar Atlas’, which divides the Moon into 16 sections and includes lunar photographs along with a map for the reader to learn the names of craters and mares. There is a two-page segment on the surface features and the categories they fall into, which ties in nicely with the maps and provides enough information for the observer to identify features on the Moon’s surface. There is much to learn from this instructive and enthusing book, which will appeal to selenophiles everywhere.
Reviewer Katrin Raynor Evans is a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the librarian for Cardiff Astronomical Society.
Brief Answers to the Big Questions
Our reviewer said “How did it all begin? Is there other intelligent life in the Universe? Is time travel possible?” These are just a few of the big questions that Stephen Hawking discusses in his final book. Hawking does not simply give us one-word answers, but walks us through his own thinking and divergences on each subject. The language is easy to follow and each chapter’s length keeps you engaged. In places the book touches on some complicated physics, but you will never feel lost. There are many inspiring parts that will stay with you and shape the way you think about these big questions in the future.
Reviewer Laura Nuttall is a Senior Lecturer in Gravitational Waves at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth
Ultimate Guide to Viewing the Cosmos
Our reviewer said: Authors Dickinson and Cain are here to ease you into astronomy, providing a complex but highly readable guide for amateurs (or even veterans who need a refresher), introducing the night sky and the tools needed to observe it. They introduce us to stargazing, discuss software and equipment to aid our understanding, braving the minefield of choosing the right telescope, the right aperture, the right mount and the right eyepiece. They show us how to build a basic Newtonian refracting ‘scope for under $50. This is a companion for any astronomer at any level, but its main message is that we should not forget to simply revel in astronomy for the awe-inspiring experience that it is.
Reviewer Ben Evans is the author of several books on human spaceflight
Our Universe: An Astronomer’s Guide
Our reviewer said: Dunkley takes her readers on a grand tour of space and time, from our nearest planetary neighbours to the edge of the observable Universe. The book follows a well-trodden path, starting with an overview of the history of astronomy and a description of our Solar System. Stellar evolution is next, followed by galaxies, clusters and the mystery of dark matter. The birth, evolution and future of the Universe are discussed in the final chapters. Explanations are always clear, metaphors are to the point and arguments easy to follow. If you feel like refreshing your background knowledge, or are looking for a present for your curious niece or nephew, this little gem certainly won’t disappoint.
Reviewer Govert Schilling is an astronomy writer and author of the book Ripples in Spacetime.
Space Shuttle: A Photographic Journey
Our reviewer said: The Shuttle was the first reusable spacecraft. Its fleet of five flew 135 times into orbit. The many successful missions were, of course, marred by two tragic accidents that cost the lives of 14 astronauts in 1986 and 2003. Those dreadful events are indeed recalled in this book, but the photos focus on the positive aspects of the Shuttle project. The bulk of the pages are packed with colour images of the Shuttles, from launch preparations through lift-off and orbit, to landing. The book ends with a gallery of individual mission insignia, followed by pages listing key data for each flight. However, it is the splendid collection of Shuttle images that makes this book so special.
Reviewer Paul Sutherland is a space writer and journalist, author of Philip’s Essential Guide to Space
Mars: The Missions That Have Transformed Our Understanding of the Red Planet
Our reviewer said: Author and NASA consultant Rod Pyle has written a lot about the history of space exploration, but this book is a masterpiece. Pyle writes about the mission scientists and the emotions felt as they witnessed the first ever landing on the Red Planet. This book not only illustrates the brightest moments from different Mars missions, but also talks about failures and lost spacecraft, spelling out the history of our species’ curiosity with Mars and explorations of its surface. It’s an excellent read, both for those who know a lot about Mars and those who have only recently become fascinated by the Red Planet.
Reviewer Sandra Kropa is a science journalist and writer
Picturing Apollo 11
Our reviewer said: Historian JL Pickering and journalist John Bisney’s anthology of rare photographs, Picturing Apollo 11, honours the people who strove against all odds to land a man on the Moon. Only a handful of their chosen images are readily recognisable; most have not been seen before. The book covers January to August 1969, from crew selection to their emergence from quarantine onto the world stage. The authors avoid familiar images in favour of rarer ones, often quirky, including 7-year-old Andy Aldrin trying on his father’s helmet. The book conveys the sense of awe at Apollo’s monumental scale and the photographic clarity is profound.
Reviewer Ben Evans is the author of several books on human spaceflight and is a science and astronomy writer
No Shadow of a Doubt
Our reviewer said: At 2.13 GMT on 29th May 2019 it was exactly 100 years since Arthur Eddington and Frank Dyson stood before their telescopes ready to capture images of an eclipse they hoped would confirm Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The book tells of the lead up to the eclipse expeditions, details the expeditions themselves and looks at the aftermath: how Eddington and Dyson’s results were received at the time and the discussions regarding their validity up until the present day. It also discusses the role of this expedition in making Albert Einstein a household name. This is a fascinating book, full of insight into the relationship between theory and experimental proof.
Reviewer Dr Emily Winterburn is the author of The Stargazer’s Guide: How to Read our Night Sky.
The Secret Lives of Planets
Our reviewer said: Paul Murdin manages to compress billions of years of Solar System history into fewer than 300 pages, as well as providing a timeline and glossary of both our nearest and furthest neighbours. The details of each object’s classification, rotation, diameter and surface temperatures are given in helpful boxouts so the reader doesn’t get lost in all the information. The Secret Lives of Planets aims to be “a user’s guide to the Solar System”, but it also turns out to be an inspiration to look at the Solar System as a long cosmic journey, and find our place in it.
Reviewer Sandra Kropa is a science journalist and writer
The Crowd & the Cosmos
Our reviewer said: Over ten years ago, The Sky at Night’s Chris Lintott started Galaxy Zoo, a citizen science project to classify galaxies. It was an instant success. At present, the Zooniverse encompasses over 70 science projects. In his entertaining book, Lintott describes the origin and evolution of the Zooniverse, with a focus on the astronomy projects, including discoveries like Hanny’s Voorwerp and Tabby’s Star. The real strength of the book is in the accessible description of astronomical research and future big-data facilities like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Once you start reading, his book is hard to put down.
Reviewer Govert Schilling is an astronomy writer and author
Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System
Our reviewer said: If you fancy snowboarding off Pluto’s slopes and frozen mountains, experiencing ‘diamond’ rain on Uranus or taking a 20-year plane journey from the Moon to the Sun, you could take a family trip around the Solar System with space scientist and The Sky at Night presenter Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock. In her book, aimed at older pre-teen children, a cartoonified Dr Maggie takes readers on an informative journey. It’s beautifully designed, with an appealing layout and plenty of illustrations. Packing in the entirety of the Solar System, its planets, objects, exploratory missions and history in 120 pages aimed at children is no easy task. Aderin-Pocock has made a valiant effort to do so.
Reviewer Shaoni Bhattacharya is a science writer and journalist
Curious Cosmic Compendium
Our reviewer said: Which is the biggest and the most massive star in the Universe? Where is it located and when was it born? All the answers to these questions and many more, plus maps of places of universal importance, can be found in this Curious Cosmic Compendium. The author, artist and internet sensation Martin Vargic displays the history and wonders of the Universe in the typically creative way that brought his Miscellany of Curious Maps and Map of the Internet such praise. In more than 100 pages filled with facts and illustrations he takes the reader on a journey through the history of the cosmos.
Reviewer Sandra Kropa is a science journalist and writer
Space: 10 Things You Should Know
Our reviewer said: Dr Becky Smethurst has a wonderful gift for communicating some extremely exciting but also tough astrophysics in 10 bite-sized essays. If you’d like to know about supermassive black holes, the hunt for exoplanets and the expanding Universe (plus a lot more), then this book is a nice starting point. I really enjoyed the conversational writing style and the divergences that come with this. It made me feel as though Dr Becky was sat next to me. My favourite chapter is the last, which touches on the importance of searching for the unknown knowns. There’s something wonderfully inspiring communicated through the pages, and I closed the book feeling a bit more excited about my own research.
Reviewer Laura Nuttall is a Senior Lecturer in Gravitational Waves in the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth
Dark Matter & Dark Energy
Our reviewer said: In the past few decades, it’s become clear that we have focussed on a mere 5% of the Universe – the rest remains almost entirely unknown. Astronomers divide this mysterious majority into two types of ‘stuff’: dark matter and dark energy. Brian Clegg’s book is a clear and compact look at the current state of knowledge about these twin cosmic mysteries. After an introductory account of the discovery of both phenomena, the first half of the book focuses on dark matter. The second half tackles dark energy, with some basic cosmological groundwork followed by a discussion of dark energy and what it could mean for the future of the cosmos. It’s hard to fault as a brief, easily digestible introduction to some of the biggest questions in the Universe.
Reviewer Giles Sparrow is a science writer and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society
Zwicky: The outcast genius who unmasked the Universe
Our reviewer said: Fritz Zwicky is a name most astronomers learn early their careers, due to both his scientific achievements and his combative personality. This biography explores the life of this world-renowned physicist. The book spans an eventful period in world history that formed the backdrop to Zwicky’s astronomy research along with his contributions to the US war effort and rocketry. It includes details of many of Zwicky’s personal encounters, putting his various feuds and confrontations in context. It’s very interesting to read and provides a fascinating insight into a rich, complicated character and his engagement with the world he was part of.
Reviewer Dr Chris North is an Odgen science lecturer and Science & Technologies Facilities Council public engagement fellow at Cardiff University
Our reviewer said: ‘Saturn’ is a detailed exploration of the most well-known of the ringed planets in our Solar System. It is an amazing account of how much we can learn from so little; how, over time, new things slowly reveal themselves, and how many questions we have yet to answer about this infamous giant world. As well as drawings from early observations of the planet, the book features some spectacular images taken by the Cassini orbiter and other missions, which combine with Sheehan’s writing to show how our understanding of Saturn has gradually deepened over the centuries. The book concludes with a detailed guide to observing Saturn in the hope that further monitoring, by both amateur and professional astronomers, will help to reveal the planet’s many remaining secrets.
Reviewer Hannah Wakeford is an astronomer who studies the atmospheres of exoplanets at Space Telescope Science Institute
Handprints on Hubble
Our reviewer said: Penned by America’s first female spacewalker, Handprints on Hubble tells the story of Kathy Sullivan, whose career took her from a pressurised space suit to the highest altitude ever reached by the Space Shuttle. As one of the first women picked by NASA for astronaut training, her memoir mixes autobiography with a solid appreciation of the Hubble Space Telescope, arguably the most important science instrument ever placed into orbit. As a ringside spectator of Challenger, Sullivan’s memories are tinged by tragedy and she remained soberly aware that she might never return from a mission. Behind every scene Hubble itself looms large – “like a beautiful silver gift from Tiffany’s” – whose contribution to understanding our place in the cosmos needs no qualification.
Reviewer Ben Evans is the author of several books on human spaceflight and is a science and astronomy writer.
By: JL Pickering
I receive quite a few photo related questions during the course of a year. I am going to use this space from time to time to start answering a few of them. Hopefully you will find some of them interesting.
To add a little to the story, Gordon is seen wearing red ID bands on May 12, 1971 as the back-up crew suited for an EVA training session at KSC. Gordon is assisted by suit tech (and artist) Ron Woods. Second photo shows Gordon on May 27 now with the yellow bands, which according to Ron was actually yellow tape wrapped over the red bands. Ron approached Dick Gordon a few years ago and showed him one of the “yellow ID band” photos. Neither one could remember anything about it. Obviously it was a long time ago.
Visit my website at http://www.retrospaceimages.com
I am happy to announce that our book “Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments” is back in stock on Amazon.
The 50th anniversary of the moon landing is on July 20, 2019. Looking for a way to celebrate this amazing human achievement? Just pick up a book! Books about the moon landing offer a detailed look at the event that left an indelible mark on our culture—including rare and never-before-seen images.
To help you wade through the massive selection of titles, we’ve picked some great books about the moon landing. One publication, titled The Moon 1968 – 1972, gives us a first-hand look at what Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin saw while walking its surface—literally. The book features images taken from their Hasselblad cameras and curates from a staggering 1,400 pictures. In doing so, it gives you an overall sense of what it was like to be looking down on the Earth.
Some of the publications on our list aren’t focused on the 1969 moon landing, specifically, but they demonstrate how artists and photographers are influenced by it. Color of the Moon: Lunar Painting in American Art, for instance, highlights the different ways in which artists have recreated the celestial body. Moon Viewing: Megaliths by Moonlight is another book that shares how monoliths, created by man, are illuminated by Earth’s satellite. While incredible in scale, the megaliths still pale in comparison to the moon that looms from way above.
Check out our picks for creative books on the moon landing and beyond, below.
Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments by J. L. Pickering and John Bisney
Picturing Apollo 11 offers a new photographic history of the iconic space mission. It features “unpublicized and recently discovered images” that highlight the people, places, and events that helped Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin successfully land on the moon.
The Color of the Moon: Lunar Painting in American Art by Hudson River Museum
The moon is an alluring subject for American painters. Through an exhibition organized at the Hudson River Museum, this accompanying catalog showcases the different ways in which artists have explored the celestial body.
The Moon 1968 – 1972 by E.B. White and John Kennedy
The Apollo missions sent many men into space between the years of 1968 and 1972. Although each was well-documented, the astronauts were given cameras to snap pictures. Included is writing by the likes of E.B. White and President John Kennedy, making the book an exploration of the sublimity of space.
Hasselblad & the Moon Landing by Deborah Ireland
Similar to The Moon 1968 – 1972, Deborah Ireland’s book Hasselblad & the Moon Landingis an examination of the shots that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin snapped using their Hasselblad 500EL cameras. While it shares these firsthand images of the moon, the work also touches on the challenge of creating a camera that could take these pictures in the first place.
Moon Viewing: Megaliths by Moonlight by Barbara Yoshida
Megalithic monuments (such as Stonehenge) are found around the world. Barbara Yoshida documents these monoliths with 10 years of travel, and her published work showcases how the giant stones look against the moon and stars.
Moon: The Art, Science and Culture of the Moon by Alexandra Loske and Robert Massey
We are endlessly fascinated with the moon and express our allure for it through storytelling, artwork, and, of course, scientific explorations. Alexandra Loske and Robert Massey trace the visual history of the moon in this “illuminating volume.”
Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography by Mia Fineman and Beth Saunders
The field of photography has undergone immense changes since the advent of the first photograph. Apollo’s Muse showcases the history of photographic representations of the moon from daguerreotypes to video art.
Earthrise: How Man First Saw the Earth by Robert Poole
What happened when our imagined visions of Earth met the reality of it? Earthrise is the story of the first photographs of Earth from outer space and the impact it had on our culture, science, and religion.
We Could Not Fail: The First African Americans in the Space Program by Richard Paul and Steven Moss
The Space Age began as the fight for civil rights “forced Americans to confront the long and bitter legacy of slavery, discrimination, and violence against African Americans.” During this time, Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson used federal equal employment opportunity laws to open jobs at NASA and NASA contractors to African Americans. Authors Richard Paul and Steven Moss profile 10 African American space workers whose roles at NASA and the space program helped promote civil rights.
Apollo to the Moon: A History in 50 Objects by Teasel E. Muir-Harmony
Using 50 artifacts from the Smithsonian archives, author Teasel E. Muir-Harmony tells the story of the Apollo 11 landing and man’s subsequent walk on the moon. The curated objects range from the lunar rover to space food to moon rocks, and each tells an interesting story that ultimately helped make the mission a success.
By J. L. Pickering, coauthor of Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments
This book is available at a discount price through July 31, 2019, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. Order here and use code APOLLO.
How many photos of an historical event are “enough”? The answer likely depends on who you are. Let’s use the mission of Apollo 11, the first time humans landed on the moon, as an example. If you’re a casual student of history, the number of images that have been publicly available since 1969 are probably sufficient. If you’re more of space enthusiast, however, you want to see more, since they would add to your understanding and appreciation of what transpired.
But if you’re a true historian, the answer may be, “there are never enough!” That’s because each additional photo provides more detail and information, much like a movie showing the same scene from different angles. As someone who has been collecting, organizing, and archiving still photos from the U.S. manned space flight programs for 48 years, I fall into this category.
What is that astronaut holding during training? Who is the technician seen obliquely in one image but clearly in another (maybe his name can be deciphered by zooming in on his name badge)? But the desire to bring as many photos to light as possible goes beyond just factual reasons; sometimes, a more attractive version was overlooked or omitted.
The relatively small universe of photos released by NASA, however, was not nefarious but was determined by the demand. It’s important to remember that during the Apollo era, newspapers (almost all printing in black and white halftone) and general-interest magazines only needed so many photos; and digital reproduction and the Internet were still decades away.
In the intervening forty years, attention also turned to what would end up as something of a temporary future: the space shuttle program, lasting from 1981–2011. When digital photography arrived during the 1990s, the number of shuttle images exploded and “storing” them was not a problem. Meanwhile, however, tens of thousands of celluloid negatives and prints from the past Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs were packed away and eventually sent from NASA’s field centers to the National Archives.
A significant cache of material ended up in a spare railroad boxcar parked in the Florida heat and humidity near the Launch Complex 39 Press Site, and after years of neglect, was headed to a local landfill. A few concerned retirees managed to save thousands of prints. Many of them, however, had already been released (or at least made available to the media) during the 1970s. The bulk of physical Apollo-era photography was eventually boxed up and sent to one of three National Archives facilities in Maryland, Texas, or Georgia. In the past few years I have spent many weeks and dollars at these facilities scanning and “liberating” images from color negatives that were never printed.
Many of these photos—and others I have obtained from private sources—form the core of the space history photo books I produce with my coauthor, former news correspondent John Bisney. Our goal is always to go beyond the “greatest hits” to bring readers a wealth of great new images they would never otherwise see. These locked-away photos, taken on the ground as opposed to the more famous (and fully released) in-flight images snapped by the astronauts, capture moments in time, split seconds in history that will never be repeated. They’re filled with far more than astronauts and spacecraft—instead they reveal the men and women behind the successes and failures of the early U.S. manned space program. We see their emotions, their workplaces, and glimpses of their everyday lives and culture on the job.
This is why I continue to persevere to try to overcome a less-than-helpful federal bureaucracy not particularly interested in devoting resources to releasing images from half a century ago, now languishing in government warehouses. John and I are always delighted to bring you the results.
J. L. Pickering, coauthor (with John Bisney) of Picturing Apollo 11: Rare Views and Undiscovered Moments, has been archiving rare space images for some forty years. Drawing from NASA archives, retired NASA personnel, news photographers, and other sources, his collection numbers more than 120,000 high-resolution prints and images. He covered the final Apollo/Saturn launch in 1975 and attended numerous Space Shuttle launches. Today he serves as a resource and expert for authors, documentary filmmakers, museums, former astronauts, and even NASA. He lives in Bloomington, Illinois.
Today we mark the birthday of our first president, George Washington, which was actually February 22. The holiday, however, has become widely-known as Presidents’ Day to honor all who have held the office, and so is also an opportunity to remember our 35th president, John F. Kennedy.
In the 1960s, February 22 was a federal holiday, no matter what day of the week it fell (Lincoln’s February 12 birthday, incidentally, was never a federal holiday). On all three times it rolled around during his administration, President Kennedy found time to relax. In 1961, after a series of morning briefings at the White House, he played nine holes of golf in the afternoon, followed by a few more meetings and then dinner at a friend’s home. In 1963, he was at the Kennedy family compound in Palm Beach, Fla. He went to the beach in the morning and cruised on the yacht Honey Fitz in the afternoon.
On February 22, 1962, he was also in Palm Beach. He had flown down from Washington earlier in the day, accompanied by the family of astronaut John Glenn. They would all attend a medal ceremony in Glenn’s honor the next day at Cape Canaveral after becoming the first American to orbit the Earth on Feb. 20.
It was Kennedy’s first visit to the Cape, and he received a brief tour of launch facilities before pinning NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal on Glenn’s lapel. The president would come to the space center on two more occasions during his time in office. We cover all three visits with multi-page photo spreads in our new book, The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy, along with detailed captions providing the rich historical background for each image. By John Bisney for Retrospaceimages Blog.
This book is now available. Follow the affiliate link below to view on Amazon.
President John F. Kennedy (at bottom of airplane stairs) and members of John Glenn’s family exit Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Florida on February 22, 1962. Walking down the stairs behind Kennedy are Glenn’s wife, Annie; his daughter, Lyn; and his son David.
“Out of this world: Rare and never before seen pictures provide a unique glance behind NASA’s groundbreaking 1969 moon landing” Luke Kenton The Daily Mail .
We are pleased that our book is getting noticed in the UK. Thank you to The Daily Mail for reviewing our book today.
“50 years ago this July, Neil Armstrong took ‘one giant leap for mankind’ as he became the first human to step foot on the moon’s surface – and now, never-before-seen pictures provide a unique glimpse behind the profound 1969 voyage. “
Follow the affiliate link below to view on Amazon.
Available on pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Hardcover released March 14th, 2019 The University of Florida Press
“Picturing Apollo 11”, which has been named a 2019 Top Ten release by Publisher’s Weekly in Art, Architecture & Photography, has also just received a nice review.
Although it wont be shipped until March 15, its currently on sale for $29.30 (a 35% discount) from Amazon and Target.
In a story told primarily through photos and captions, historian Pickering and journalist Bisney (coauthors of Moonshots and Snapshots of Project Apollo), chronicle 1969’s heady days of “moon fever.” Across 10 well-organized chapters, the selected images capture the country’s mounting excitement; the meticulous preparation of astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins; and finally the moon landing itself and the crew’s return to Earth. Subjects range from the magnificent—the Apollo 11 rocket at sunset or twilight on the launching pad—to the mundane—the astronauts signing rental car forms at a NASA base. Some of the most affecting images are simple portraits of Aldrin, Armstrong, and Collins, which amply capture their discipline and determination. In the introduction, Bisney notes that he and Pickering don’t claim to include any new material from space, as all “in-flight photography” has been publicly available since 1969; NASA buffs familiar with such images may find fresh interest in, for instance, those of the astronauts enduring a 21-day isolation period after their return and then being feted around the world. The reader is left with an ample sense of the astronauts’ fame and, thanks to Pickering and Bisney’s wise selections, of their lasting accomplishment. (Mar.)
I am pleased to share a promotional video for the book “The Space-Age Presidency of John F. Kennedy” by John Bisney and myself. The book can be pre-ordered on Amazon.
Please click the link below to watch the promotional video.