By Giles Sparrow
The heavens are alive with breathtaking good looks: from the incandescent floor of the sunlight to the shimmering tail of a comet; the start of planets to the dying of stars; the dancing shadows of Jupiter's moons to the silhouettes of eclipses.
The Cosmic Gallery contemplates the whole cosmos as a grand celestial artwork convey. In six thematically equipped chapters, Giles Sparrow provides an array of gorgeous pictures, starting from simply noticeable phenomena to the main far away and complex galaxies, delivering the reader with an exhilarating and lovely new point of view at the cosmos.
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Additional resources for The Cosmic Gallery: The Most Beautiful Images of the Universe
Not only are these technical achievements an art in their own right, but also the representation of data gathered by a giant telescope or a distant spaceprobe is still ultimately a matter of human choice. Many of the images shown here make use of false or representative colours to highlight certain wavelengths of light and particular structures, or to bring entire invisible worlds within the narrow limits of our perception. Others use unusual map projections to help us better understand the structure and geography of remote worlds.
The northern hemisphere of Mars is dominated by a vast lowland plain known as the Vastitas Borealis, thought to have formed after a vast impact that liquefied part of the planet’s surface shortly after its formation. Today, the plain is dominated by a huge dune sea in which countless mounds of fine sand, sculpted by the prevailing winds, pile up on top of denser underlying soils. Mars has a pattern of seasons very like Earth’s, although temperatures are much lower. At the onset of each northern winter, carbon dioxide ice condenses from the atmosphere to form a thin layer of frost that caps both sand and soil, freezing it in place.
In 1883 British amateur astronomer Andrew Ainslie Common made another significant advance, using long-exposure photographs of the famous Orion Nebula (see Blossoming Nebula) to capture the light from previously undetected stars. Today, photography is the medium by which we most commonly experience the heavens. The increasing size of telescopes and sensitivity of detectors (these days usually electronic CCDs rather than traditional film) has revealed unexpected wonders in the skies, ranging from the turbulent cloudscapes of Jupiter to the most distant galaxies, whose light may have taken billions of years to reach our instruments.
The Cosmic Gallery: The Most Beautiful Images of the Universe by Giles Sparrow