Your (Mom's) Ticket to the Universe: Review

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The Universe if pretty awesome. It’s got possible life-harboring moons and exoplanets, stunning galaxies, and mysterious dark matter. And it’s all in our cosmic backyard. So shouldn’t we know more about it? Kimberly K. Arcand and Megan Watzke think so. Combining stunning images with text geared towards the non-scientist, these two authors take readers on a comprehensive journey through the wonders of space in Your Ticket to the Universe: A Guide to Exploring the Cosmos.

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Arcand and Watzke are no strangers to breaking sometimes complex astronomical concepts down for the everyman. They both work for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory; Arcand is the media coordinator and Watzke is the press officer. Working for Chandra also means the authors have a long history of firsthand experience dealing with stunning astronomical images. Together, Arcand and Watzke designed and coordinated the From Earth to the Universe project, which, in 2009, brought astronomy to millions of people around the world. They also worked on the From Earth to the Solar System photo project, a collection of high resolution images showcasing discoveries in planetary exploration with a particular focus on the Solar System’s origin and evolution and the ongoing search for life.

Your Ticket to the Universe adds another triumph to the list of Arcand and Watzke’s image-heavy endeavors. The book features 240 stunning, full color images from from telescopes and observatories including: the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes; NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory; the Chandra X-ray Observatory; the Cassini probed currently orbiting Saturn; GOES, a geostationary weather satellite; the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile; and a host of others. There are also some stunning pictures taken from Earth and from orbit by astronauts aboard the ISS. There are even images from NASA’s Curiosity rover.

PHOTOS: The JWST’s Mind-Blowing Science Potential

And every image is accompanied by an in-depth description that tells you exactly what you’re looking for. The authors use baseball, candles, and other everyday things as the basis for analogies that clearly explain the science behind the images. Readers learn how light years work, how astronomers measure the brightness of stars, and how different types of galaxies are thought to form.

Your Ticket to the Universe is an accessible guide for even the most casual space fans. As Arcand and Watzke write: “The sky belongs to everyone. That’s the premise of this guidebook to the Universe. You don’t need a medical degree to know when you’re sick or a doctorate in literature to appreciate a novel. In the same spirit, even those of us who don’t have advanced degrees in astronomy can gain access to all the wonder and experience that the Universe has to offer.”

And with Mother’s Day around the corner, it’s a great gift for a space-loving mom. Or the mom of a space-lover.

Image: Composite image of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) including X-ray data from Chandra. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ.Potsdam/L.Oskinova et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech