Summary: Superb images of the solar system with short explanatory essays.
As a child of the space race era, I have been a life-long addict of astronomy, space flight and large, heavily illustrated books about space.
This book by writer, filmmaker and photographer Michael Benson, is a collection of truly amazing pictures covering most of the major planetary bodies in our solar system and has been compiled from the very best space probe images from the dawn of space exploration in the early 1960s right up to on-going missions to explore the outer solar system. The book includes the Earth and Moon, the Sun, a number of asteroids, all the planets (with the exception of Pluto which has not yet been visited by space probes), and a good number of moons of other planets, notably those of Jupiter. There are many images of each object, giving a real impression of what it must be like to see these worlds for yourself. The highlights for me were: the images from Mars Global Surveyor, whose detail and resolution is stunning; the moons of Jupiter, a mini solar system in itself of incredible colour and diversity; and Saturn's rings in superb detail. I was also amazed by the detailed radar images of the surface of cloud-covered Venus sent back by the Magellan probe, very few of which I had seen before. The text throughout the book is both interesting and informative, as are the Foreword by science-fiction grand-master and visionary Arthur C. Clarke and the Afterword by Lawrence Weschler, reporter, author and Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities.
There are a number of space photography books of this type on the market and I own a several of these, however, I can safely say that this book is the best example of the genre that I have come across. The images are carefully chosen and are truly awe-inspiring and I recognised only very few that I'd seen in other books or websites. The quality of the photographic reproduction is first-rate and where large mosaics have been assembled from smaller images, this has been done absolutely seamlessly. The cover photo of the crescent Neptune and its moon is like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey and like many of the pictures in this book, is almost beyond belief. If, like me, you are a big fan of space and can't wait for humanity to get off this rock we call home and see what else is out there, then this is the book for you. I cannot recommend it highly enough.