Hubble: The Mirror on the Universe

Overview

The latest images from the Hubble Space Telescope's recent discoveries and fascinating updates.

In its 20 years of viewing the heavens NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has traveled 2.8 billion miles, made more than 930,000 observations and snapped over 570,000 images of 30,000 celestial objects. It has forever changed how we view the universe and our place in it.

This third edition of Hubble picks up the journey where the last edition left off. It...

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Overview

The latest images from the Hubble Space Telescope's recent discoveries and fascinating updates.

In its 20 years of viewing the heavens NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has traveled 2.8 billion miles, made more than 930,000 observations and snapped over 570,000 images of 30,000 celestial objects. It has forever changed how we view the universe and our place in it.

This third edition of Hubble picks up the journey where the last edition left off. It includes a fascinating discussion on how the latest discoveries are revising scientific understanding of the universe, such as:

  • The first direct observation of an "exiled" star. For every 100 million stars in the galaxy there is perhaps one hypervelocity star.
  • A long-exposure image that captured the faint details of spiral galaxy NGC 4911 within the Coma
    Cluster of galaxies, which is 320 million light-years from Earth.
  • A composite "mash-up" image of two colliding galaxies located about 62 million light-years from Earth, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope along with the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Since the 2007 edition of Hubble, the Hubble Space Telescope has clocked millions more miles and taken thousands more images. This new edition describes how, like the Hubble Space Telescope's missions, our view of the universe is a constantly evolving journey.

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Editorial Reviews

Minneapolis Star Tribune - L.K. Hanson
[Review of previous edition:] Spectacular images... these are beautiful immensities to contemplate.
Globe and Mail
[Review of previous edition:] Who knew the heavens were this beautiful?... A thoroughly accessible primer on 21st-century astronomy... worth the price for the images alone.
Sky and Telescope
[Review of previous edition:] Only 13 pages of this book don't have an astronomical picture on them... a feast of photography.
Knight Ridder Newspapers - Charles Matthews
[Review of previous edition:] The choice for the reader who just wants to absorb the gorgeousness of what's out there.
Mercury Magazine [Astronomical Society of the Paci
[Review of previous edition:] The most images published in a single volume... clear concise text explaining the fascinating history of astronomy and... the HST.
Books in Canada - Olga Stein
[Review of previous edition:] A testament to both the wondrous technology... and the majesty of a universe... an intelligently organized book... fascinating and informative, I recommend Hubble for young and older readers alike.
Canadian Press - Kim Covert
[Review of previous edition:] Glorious photographs from the Hubble space telescope... some of the most important taken by the telescope.
Los Angeles Daily News - Rob Lowman
[Review of previous edition:] A helpful perspective of the vast realm astronomers are dealing with.
Los Angeles Times - Mimi Diamond
[Review of previous edition:] Packed with breathtaking images... text is helpful, as jargon-free as a subject like this can be and appropriate for adults and older children. This is one coffee-table book that may actually get read cover to cover.
Science Books and Films - Caitlin Augusta
[Review of previous edition:] An excellent astronomy resource and a must-purchase for all school and public libraries.
The Science Teacher - Deb McNabney
[Review of previous edition:] Stunning... 300 gorgeous Hubble images... well written, understandable text... a great reference book for any secondary school library.
E-Streams - Sue Norman
[Review of previous edition:] Without doubt a beautiful book... this is a splendid book and is recommended for both secondary schools and public libraries.
Choice - D.E. Hogg
[Review of previous edition:] What makes this book by space writer Kerrod stand out is the accompanying text that places the beautiful pictures in context.
Science Books and Films
[Review of previous edition:] Science Book and Film's Top Ten Science Photography Books for 2004: An absolutely spectacular book with sumptuous high-quality, full-color photographs.
The Chronicle Herald (Halifax) - Jodi DeLong
[Review of previous edition:] The black and endless expanse of the universe explodes into colour and light with Hubble's incredible photographs of stars, nebulae, planets and Pluto.
Rainbo Electronic Reviews
[Review of previous edition:] Each page in this book is filled with gorgeous pictures of galaxies and nebulae that span our universe. Trust me, the pictures you've seen on the Internet and your local newspaper don't begin to show what the Hubble Space Telescope is capable of doing. Beyond the wondrous images, Robin Kerrod and Carole Stott explain what those images are telling scientists about the nature of the universe.
VOYA
This resource can be considered two books in one. It is at once a photographic tour of the universe revealed by images from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and an astronomy textbook. Replete with full-page color photographs, the book matches up Hubble's well-labeled pictures to corresponding text nicely; however, it would be worth purchasing for the photos alone. The HST images from nebulae, stars, and galaxies are awesome. They are crisp, with good contrast, providing a visual banquet for the astronomy lover. The text is organized into six chapters: from stars to galaxies to the solar system, ending with information on the HST. The chapters are independent of each other, but within each, the material is logically organized and cohesive. Despite extensive photos, it is not a coffee table book. The print is small for browsing; the author's writing is occasionally unclear, especially in the chapter introductions; and the book presupposes some knowledge of astronomy. Nevertheless for astronomy buffs, Kerrod's masterful integration of history, astrophysics, and current research will be appreciated and enjoyed. Unfortunately the text is marred by a few generalizations and errors as well as a glaring publishing mistake. Kerrod dates a galactic collision at 500 billion years ago, when he later states (correctly) that the universe itself is only twelve to fifteen billion years old. On page 168, the text from page 162 is repeated in a section where it clearly does not belong. Those mistakes notwithstanding, Hubble is an excellent astronomy resource and a must-purchase for all school and public libraries. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P J S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broadgeneral YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2003, Firefly, 192p.; Glossary. Index. Illus. Charts. Chronology., Ages 12 to Adult.
—Caitlin Augusta
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554079728
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 8/11/2011
  • Edition description: Third Edition, Revised and Expanded
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,363,087
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Robin Kerrod was a fellow of both the Royal Astronomical Society and the British Interplanetary Society. His numerous books include The Sky at Night and History of NASA.

Formerly a professional astronomer, Carole Stott is now a full-time space science writer. She is the author of more than 20 books.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by David S. Leckrone
Hubble: The story so far
Introduction

  1. Stars in the Firmament Looking at the stars that most obviously populate the universe, created out of clouds of interstellar gas and dust; how stars are born and live out their lives.
  2. Stellar Death and Destruction How stars age and die, on time scales often measured in billions of years; stars like the Sun die comparatively quietly, but others blast themselves apart and disappear from the universe.
  3. Gregarious Galaxies The great star island galaxies in space, the spirals, ellipticals and irregulars; the enigmatic quasars, blazars and other superenergeti galaxies with their black-hole powerhouses.
  4. The Expansive Universe Introducing cosmology, the study of the origin and evolution of the universe; the Big Bang and after; galactic clusters and the large-scale structure of the universe; its ultimate fate.
  5. Solar Systems Our solar system and other planetary systems among the stars; how solar systems form and evolve; the Sun, the Moon, comets and other interplanetary debris that never made the big time.
  6. The Heavenly Wanderers The solar system's major players, the planets: Mercury, Venue, (Earth), Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, disparate bodies as different from one another as chalk from cheese.
Background Briefing
  • Introducing Telescopes
  • The Hubble Space Telescopes

Glossary of Terms
Landmarks in Astronomy
Index
Acknowledgments

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Preface

Introduction

Before we look at the universe through the HST's supersensitive eyes, let's set the scene. What, broadly speaking, is this universe of ours like? One thing for sure is that it is vast — unimaginably vast. The Earth, Moon, planets, Sun, and stars are nothing but tiny specks of matter floating in an unfathomable immensity of space — minuscule, insignificant plankton floating in an infinitely deep cosmic ocean.

When we cast our eyes up to the night sky and see a glittering firmament of twinkling stars set in the velvety blackness that is space, we are looking out at one little corner of this ocean, of this universe of ours.

Dominating the sky by night is the silvery Moon, Earth's closest companion in space — its only natural satellite. An airless, heavily cratered ball of rock, it is the only other world that human beings have set foot on — yet.

Next come the ultrabright stars that seem to wander through the heavens. But they are not stars at all: they are planets. What an extraordinary collection of bodies the planets are. They are all quite different from the planet we know best — planet Earth. Closer to the Sun, Mercury, and Venus are oven-hot, while Mars farther out is cold, but might once have been warmer and supported some kind of life. Farther out still are gigantic Jupiter and other gas giants. And farthest out, are the dwarf planets, Pluto and Eris, two small ice worlds.

Dominating the sky by day is the golden orb of the Sun, which brings warmth, light, and life to Earth. It also dominates near space with its powerful gravity, keeping the planets and a host of smaller bodies circling round it. All these bodies make up the Sun's family, or solar system.

The Sun is quite a different body from the planets: it is a huge globe of searing hot gas. It is our local star, just like the myriad other stars in the heavens but very much closer. The other stars, those pinpricks of light in the night sky, are so far away that their light takes years to reach us on Earth (light from the Sun takes just over 8 minutes). Astronomers use the distance light travels in a year (about 6 trillion miles! 9.5 trillion km) as a measure for expressing distances in space. They call it the light-year. It is the unit we use throughout the book.

The Sun is a very ordinary star, of about average size (nearly 1 million miles/1.6 million km across) and average brightness. There are stars that are very much bigger and brighter, and others that are very much smaller and dimmer.

Since the dawn of astronomy at least five millennia ago, stargazers have used patterns made by the bright stars to guide them across the night sky. These patterns are the constellations. Astronomers use Latin names for the constellations, which refer to figures ancient stargazers thought they could see in the patterns of stars. A few constellations live up to their names (Leo, the Lion; Scorpius, the Scorpion; Cygnus, the Swan), but most don't.

All stars are born in great billowing clouds of gas that occupy the space between the stars. After shining steadily for perhaps tens of billions of years, stars begin to die. They may exit the universe relatively quietly, as the Sun will eventually, or disappear in a fantastic supernova explosion. The end products of their death throes will be superdense bodies like white dwarfs and neutron stars, or the most awesome objects we know in the universe — black holes.

The stars we see in the night sky may lie many thousands of light-years away, but they are still close neighbors in the universe. They all belong to a great star island in space — a galaxy. The universe is made up of innumerable island galaxies, separated by virtually empty space.

Our galaxy, called the Milky Way or just the Galaxy, probably contains at least 500 billion stars. It measures some 100,000 light-years across and has a spiral shape. Many galaxies are like it, but others are elliptical in shape or have no regular shape at all. We can see just three galaxies in the night sky with the naked eye. They are the Magellanic Clouds in the far southern skies and the Andromeda Galaxy in northern skies.

Some galaxies are extraordinary, pumping out much more energy into the universe than usual, particularly at radio wavelengths. Called active galaxies, they include enigmatic bodies such as quasars and blazars. Black holes seem to be the engines that generate their exceptional power.

Just as stars group together to form great stellar island galaxies, so galaxies themselves group together to form clusters. 0ur own Galaxy is part of a relatively small group of about 30 galaxies. But we know of clusters containing thousands of galaxies. In their turn, even clusters group together to form superclusters. And on the largest scale, it is strings of superclusters, interspersed with empty voids, that make up the universe.

How can we put such an enormous universe in perspective? With great difficulty — but we can try. Let's suppose we have been able to build an interstellar and intergalactic starship, capable of traveling at the speed of light, and take an incredible journey into space. Setting off from Earth, we would reach the Moon in 1 1/2 seconds and flash pass Venus in 2 1/2 minutes. In less than 8 1/2 minutes we would be leaving the Sun behind, heading for the distant dwarf planet Pluto. We would reach this tiny world in 5 1/2 hours. But it would take several months longer before we escaped completely from the gravitational influence of the Sun and left the solar system. Now traveling in interstellar space, we wouldn't reach even the nearest star
(Proxima Centauri) for more than 4 years.

To explore our Galaxy would require flight times measured in tens of thousands of years — 25,000 years to reach the Galaxy's center, twice as long again to reach its edge. To make a visit to our galactic neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, we would have a journey time of 2.5 million years. And to reach the farthest objects we can see in the universe, we would have to journey for at least 12 billion years. This is nearly as long as the universe has existed.

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Introduction

PREFACE

Circling silently in space a few hundred miles above our heads is one of the most amazing scientific instruments ever made -- the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Day after day it is returning images of the universe with incredible beauty, as it peers deep into space to spy on the stars, the vast stellar nurseries where they are born, and distant galaxies.

It was not always so. The HST made a disastrous debut. When first launched in April 1990, it had faulty vision because its primary light-gathering mirror had been inadvertently ground to the wrong shape. The mirror was only two-fiftieths of the width of a human hair out of true, but this was enough to blur the images the HST produced.

But the very perfection of the imperfection of the primary mirror made it relatively easy, optically speaking, to correct. And in December 1993, spacewalking astronauts recovered the HST in orbit and corrected its flawed vision. The telescope then at last began to fulfil its promise of opening up a new window on the universe. On subsequent servicing missions, new instruments have broadened and deepened the view through that window.

The HST is a monster of a satellite, as big as a bus and twice as heavy as a bull elephant. Yet it can manipulated remotely with microsurgical precision to view a particular region of space. And it can stay locked onto that region for hours at a time, even though it is hurling in orbit around Earth at more than ten times the speed of a rifle bullet.

Compared with leading ground-based telescopes, the HST has quite a small light-gathering mirror -- the Keck telescopes in Hawaii have mirrors more than four times the size. But the HST is a much moreeffective light-gatherer than ordinary telescopes: they look at the heavens through the "dirty window" that is the Earth's atmosphere, whereas the HST looks at the universe through the pristine clarity of airless space. So it can detect the faintest smudges of light coming from even the remotest depths of the universe. It also has the advantage over ordinary telescopes that it can detect invisible radiation from the heavens that the atmosphere absorbs.

This book reveals the wonderful, mysterious and awesome universe of ours through the eyes of the Hubble Space Telescope. You don't have to be an astronomer to appreciate the often breathtakingly, hauntingly beautiful images, which chronicle frozen moments in the life of the cosmos -- from Martian dust storms to extrasolar planetary systems; from the birth pangs of young stars to the death throes of ancient ones; from starbursts in neighboring galaxies to catastrophic collisions in remote galactic clusters.

So travel with me on an incredible journey into space. The ultimate incredible journey. To the ends of the universe. To the beginning of time.

Robin Kerrod
Salisbury, England.

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