Reviewed by Jean Worsley
Retired Biology Teacher
This book will thrust young readers to the outer limits of the universe. They will learn the science behind this astronomical phenomenon, historical events, relevant theories, current and future research. Stunning colorful pictures and the skillful use of color on pages, captions, and titles will cause readers to ponder these questions: What are galaxies? Can I see them? How many are there? What are they made of? How do they move? The answers to these questions will cause readers to rethink their place in the cosmos, realizing that stars seen are comparable only to a speck of dust.
Using terminology and examples that can be readily understood, four kinds of galaxies—elliptical, spiral, barred spiral, and lenticular—are described. Facts about the Milky Way, the barred spiral galaxy of our solar system, and planets with billions of stars are also included. It is noted that the formation of galaxies has been in progress for billions of years. A thorough explanation of the visible parts of galaxies and how gravity holds them together is outlined. Further, the author explains how stars and new elements are created, how galaxies move, and how supernovae are formed. In spite of all that is known, the mystery is the relationship of black holes, dark matter, and dark energy to galaxies.
Continuing with a concise historical narrative, inventions and theories developed by Galileo, Kant, Einstein, Hubble and many others are examined. During this time, some of the theories contradicted basic beliefs about the universe. Finally, it was proven that the earth revolved around the sun and that many galaxies are pulling away at enormous speeds. Also, numerous nebulae were catalogued and published and quasars discovered. Infrared and ultraviolet sensors developed during World War II were used by astronomers.
Readers will be amazed to learn that since the year 2000, nearly one million galaxies have been mapped by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey using a telescope at an observatory in New Mexico. Other tools described are the optical, refracting, and reflecting telescopes and spectrometer. The author revisits the timeline of intangible and tangible discoveries by scientists and mathematicians that led to the development of space technology.
In the topic "Way Back to the Future" the author describes how many new tools, such as space–based telescopes, X–ray telescopes, gamma ray detectors, radio receivers and a network of satellites, have been developed. It is believed that an understanding of the origin of the universe is needed to further understand the mystery of galaxies. The mystery of the origin of life and whether there are other beings like us in the universe remains elusive.
Many advances in astronomy have been revealed by the Hubble Space Telescope. With global cooperation, numerous projects have been initiated. Future research will focus on black holes to solve the mystery of which came first, the galaxy or the black hole. If we have fossil records on earth, the question remains, why not of the universe? Interesting "Galactic Asides" include the television series Star Trek, Big Bang in a Tube, and the Handy Black Hole. The book has endnotes, web sites, a bibliography, and index. This is an excellent book to introduce one of the mysteries of the Universe—Galaxies.
Review posted on 9/6/2012