Since Daguerre’s first images of the moon in 1839, we have sought to capture the essence of the heavens above us through photography. We built observatories equipped with bigger mirrors and better cameras in the hopes that we will be able to see farther and yet more clearly. When those proved to be insufficient, we detached our telescopes from their earthly housings and set them in orbit.
Of course, looking away, out there, was not enough. We needed to be able to look back at where we are, and from where we came. So we sent astronauts into orbit and probes to comets and rovers to distant planets. And we stared at the photographs we collected in the hopes that they could tell us something more, something else, that maybe they could unlock just one more little mysterious corner of the universe.
As Bill Nye says in his preface, “I hope you appreciate the inherent beauty of each image. But I further hope that each picture and caption whets your curiosity about the science behind the astronomical phenomena.”
He needn’t worry. This collection claws at the imagination, invoking visions of starships and space flight, of wormholes and black holes and tesseracts and timeslips, and yet remains elegantly, effortlessly real. These are composite images, true, compiled from raw data sent back by those telescopes and probes, but that does nothing to lessen their beauty.
A small bit of clear, easily understood text accompanies each image, explaining the context of what it is we are seeing, whether a nebula or our own sun. This combination of scientific explanation and artist’s eye makes for a book built for slow perusal, perhaps on a day when it is hard to see the horizon. Earth + Space is a reminder of where we have been and what we have seen, an exhortation to boldly go and to see more, to see better, to see further.
Earth and Space
by Nirmala Nataraj (author), NASA (photographer) and Bill Nye (preface)
2015, 176 pages, 9.5 x 11.5 x 1 inches (hardcover)