CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 8 . . . . October 23, 2015
From the early astronomers to the cosmonauts and astronauts who have orbited the Earth or walked on the moon, space has always held an allure. This captivating book has its own particular appeal as it discusses a variety of space-related topics in four main chapters. Most of the double-page spreads in each chapter begin with an introductory paragraph. The remainder of the information is found in text boxes with accompanying colour photographs. This layout is not only attractive, but it also lends itself to the book's being read in small snippets, or readers can choose areas of specific interest on which to focus. "Galactic Facts" bars appear in narrow bands across the bottom of the page (e.g. "Since gravity affects time, your feet age slightly faster than your head."), while "Explorer's Corner" boxes feature astronomer Brendan Mullan who shares information about the universe.
The first chapter explains what space is and shows the layers of Earth's atmosphere. Other topics include the planets in our solar system and criteria for calling a large body of rock a planet, how moons are formed, parts of the Milky Way galaxy, and telescopes and observatories throughout the world.
In the second chapter, readers will learn about comets, meteoroids, asteroids, dark energy, dark matter, quasars, and the three shapes of galaxies - ring, spiral and irregular. Pioneers in the search for alien life forms are also mentioned. One interesting term described in this chapter is "spaghettification" which refers to a process whereby the pull of gravity is stronger on the first part of a body that passes the event horizon of a black hole, thus creating "interstellar spaghetti".
The third section is devoted to the history of the space race, space exploration which began with sending animals such as monkeys and dogs into orbit and evolved into men and women conducting scientific experiments in outer space and several astronauts landing on the moon. In recent years, information gleaned from robotic probes, shuttles, space stations (research labs that orbit Earth), and rovers, such as the lunar buggy used on Apollo missions, and Curiosity, a rover that is studying soil and rocks as well as looking for signs of life on Mars, helps scientists to better understand the workings of our solar system. This chapter also highlights eating, grooming and going to the bathroom in space, as well as the challenges of living in space due to prolonged exposure to zero gravity conditions. One of the effects of gravitational pull is the elongation of one's eyeballs, and some astronauts have even claimed that their vision had improved in outer space. The contributions of several cosmonauts, astronauts and scientists are featured, too, ranging from Russia's Valeri Polyakov, the first person to spend more than a year in space, to Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to walk in space. There is also mention of tragic accidents, such as Challenger, which exploded in 1986, less than two minutes after takeoff, and the shuttle Columbia which broke apart upon its re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere in 2003. Finally, there are comparisons between beliefs about space, then and now.
Readers can try the fun, multiple choice quiz at the beginning of the fourth chapter to find out which space-related career best suits them. Following that, there is information about constellations, inventions inspired by space movies and television shows, and the likelihood of aliens having visited Earth. One spread features facts versus myths, an example of which is that asteroid belts are relatively empty and if a probe is sent through one of them, the chances of its hitting a space rock is very remote.
The illustrations consist mostly of fabulous, colour photographs, along with a map and a few diagrams. The photos of nebulae and galaxies are absolutely spectacular!
A table of contents and an "interactive" glossary are included. The glossary not only provides the usual words and definitions, but also multiple choice questions related to each entry. There is a list of web sites, books, places to visit (such as space centers and observatories), and movies, both documentary and fictional, for those readers who wish to delve a little further into the topic.
Fascinating and educational - out of this world!
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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