The Planets: The Definitive Visual Guide to Our Solar System
© 2014 various authors (Smithsonian Institute)
I knew the moment I laid eyes on this book that we had to have it in the library. I was given the happy task of acquiring some science books for both our circulation and reference collections, and this one proved an instant winner. Its premise is straightforward: it’s a visually-laden guide to our solar system, with chapters devoted to each major body, or systems of bodies (in the case of the asteroid belt, the Kuiper belt, and comets). But “visual guide” doesn’t just mean pretty pictures. It means a jaw-dropping collection of photographs and computer generated images that deliver information while simultaneously pleasing the eye. Each planet and several moons, for instance, are given a two-page cross section that demonstrates the varying layers of the body and its atmosphere – showing Mercury’s strangely small core, for instance, and Mar’s wispy atmosphere. Information that could be a little dry if delivered in a narrative, like a chronicle of the various satellite flybys of a given planet or moon, is given a graphical twist. Images from various satellites and landers provide an all-around treat, but this isn’t just a picture book. Textual information is generous, and made for some fun reading. The Smithsonian has produced another volume like this but focused on the Universe as a whole, and I look forward to encountering it. Absolutely recommended for reading pleasure or reference use.