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4.7 out of 5 stars44
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 6 December 2006
This is a seriously beautiful book - probably the largest astronomy book I've ever seen, and the reproduction on the images is simply brilliant - I'm amazed at the level of detail in some of them (especially double-page stunners such as the Orion and Helix nebulae. The design is stylish without being overfussy, and as the previous reviewer said, it benefits immensely from being printed on black.

The text also seems well-written and informative (okay there's a handful of typos that I've noticed, but it all seems factually accurate and up to date, which is ultimately more important). And the diagrams look beautiful, for the most part - I must say that I looked straight through the Venus orbit error at first glance and had to go back and check when I saw it pointed out here. Bit of a "D'oh!" moment, definitely, and I'm sure those responsible are kicking themselves, but it's such an obvious howler that it can't possibly have been intentional. It would be good if they get that sorted out for a reprint, but you only get to rate these things once, and I'm not going to let it ruin my enjoyment of an otherwise beautiful book!
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on 14 October 2010
This spectacular book comes within an ace of being a truly superb volume.

It falls short of the mark with some mildly moronic page designs where pictures are separated from their captions quite unnecessarily and impractically, especially when given the adequacy of the space available. That text boxes are plonked over critical image segments (when they are not floating disconnected on others) suggests strongly that the book was designed by people with little feel for the subject.

Author Giles Sparrow's overall grasp of a extensive subject is quite commendable. However, the book is marred in places where his lack of expertise does shines through with instances of indifferent text and a failure to deliver clinching insights - something that could easily have been rectified with more proficient and knowledgeable editors.

Similarly, in addition to errors already mention in other reviews, some of the 'facts' vary uncomfortably, as with the distance of Betelgeuse stated as 427 light years distant on one page and 440ly on another. Andromeda is worryingly described in one single caption as being 200 000 light years in diameter and 250 000 light years across just a mere 6 lines later. Its stellar population as stated at 400 billion stars is way short of the accepted value of 1 trillion stars..... and so on. The otherwise excellent schematic of Jupiter's moons is blemished by distances which are out by a factor of ten, suggesting again editors unfamiliar with numbers. It sounds harsh, but the sheer lavishness of the book outshines these failings.

Generally, the choice of pictures is superb, but one may quibble that better Lunar and Mars photos are available from the same sources, and that too much space was devoted to nebula purely on the basis of prettiness.

But the real excellence of this book lies in the technical brilliance of the printing and image transfer. It is formidably superb. (The Chinese printers are advised to have their name printed in future editions.)

In terms of sheer volume, ink on page and stunning images, Cosmos is unbeatable.
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on 12 October 2007
I have the Dorling Kindersley book "Universe" and thought that was pretty stunning and difficult to beat, but then I read a review of this book on one of the astronomy forums and had a look on Amazon. Having read the reviews below I was assured this would be worth the purchase. The reviews did not lie!! This is quite simply the best photographic astronomy book out there at the moment. If you just want one book to inspire people and make them gawp at the awesomeness of what lies beyond our atmosphere this is surely it. The only problem I have now is finding shelf space for it!
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on 1 December 2006
I have more "coffee table" books on Astronomy than I do surface area on my coffee tables. This book makes it so I could get rid of all the rest as it is not only more complete but more beautiful than the rest combined.

There are some errors in it that make absolutely no sense why they were made (spelling and the Venusian orbit issue listed above). However... the science is solid and more importantly for a book like this, the images are unmatched in print.

Just like any book of this type, fingerprints on the pages are inevitable and annoying against a black background, but I wouldn't trade for white backgrounds because these images need the black to really show their visual range.

The information is also very current. Pluto is not considered a planet, the idea of neutrinos contributing to Dark Matter, and a host of other relatively recent developments are included. The progression is also very clean and straight forward starting at earth and progressing out to the large scale of the universe, which is something most of these books don't spend enough time on despite it being one of the most fascinating developments in cosmology recently.

If you want to learn the science, this isn't quite the book you're looking for. It's awkward to hold for long reading sessions due to the size, and not exceptionally in depth. However, the images can't be beat (not until Hubble's replacement goes live in a few years) and the science is comprehensive enough to let you know what you are looking at.
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A huge subject requires a huge book, and Giles Sparrow obliges. The photographs in here are some of the best astronomical studies you will ever have the good luck to see. If you downloaded them and printed them, unless you had an A3 printer or bigger you would not achieve the size, in any case you are unlikely to achieve the quality, and it would cost you far more to print several of them than buying the whole book!

My only gripe is that the pages are black! But then so is the sky, mostly. We use cotton gloves when browsing it to avoid leaving fingerprints.

Once inside the book you can lose yourself in the quality, even a magnifying glass reveals more detail. We've owned our copy for a couple of years, and are still finding new details in it. It begins close to home, the Moon and Earth and Sun and inner planets, and slowly works out through the solar system, though our incredible galaxy and heads into the farthest reaches of space.

I did Astrophysics as part of my University degree, and have always had an interest in the skies from a very early age, so have quite a lot of background knowledge. This book is not boring! My wife has none of this grounding, and she also finds it fascinating.

The text is also highly informative and up-to-date for 2007 and complements the illustrations very neatly. There are still a few tiny errors in my second edition copy, but nothing to worry about, and I am amazed there are so few considering what a considerable body of work this is.

Another book well worth reading, which dovetails neatly with this one, just happens to have the same title Cosmos and is by Carl Sagan. I bought both at the same time, and my wife read both cover to cover! They've got to be good!
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on 8 January 2007
Yes, it has it's inaccuracies and typos, but this is an absolutely stunning book. It's meant to be a book to enable us to sit back and amire the fraction of the Universe we know in all it's glory.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 29 August 2013
I bought this amazing book very recently while out and about on my local High Street. It was the very dictionary definition of an 'impulse buy', especially as I'd only popped out to get a paper and a packet of Poppets. Still, you know how it is - one minute you're completely in control of your impulse buying... the next, you're on your way back to your office with some bubble bath, three pairs of 15 denier stockings and a book about the cosmos. It could happen to anyone, right? No? Oh well, that must just be me then.

Although I defy anyone not to be as impressed as I was by the photographs in this mighty work. You may need to be built like Geoff Capes to be actually able to browse through it reasonably comfortably though. Mind you, I suppose dragging this around the house could be incorporated into some kind of bespoke fitness regime which may eventually give you all the muscles you need for such a monumental task. My goodness me - that makes this tome even MORE impressive.

I am, by no stretch of anybody's imagination, a scientist. Consequently, most of the scientific facts and figures in this book go so far above my head that they leave contrails. I simply do not have the sort of brain that can process the idea of space on such a massive scale. Although, having said that, it seems I may not be alone there. Even the author of the foreword to this book (a lady called Dava Sobel who, chivalry almost forbids me from admitting, I had no awareness even of the existence of before struggling back to my office with this book), even she seems to suggest that it is a pretty daunting task to imagine the size of the cosmos, even for scientists like her. I think I love her.

It is difficult to describe the illustrations in here without resorting to the sort of endless list of superlatives that might just make you question whether I am being blackmailed in some way by Giles Sparrow. However, such a list would be sincere. Anything from 'Awesome!' to 'Zowie!' would be more than justifiable on the back of these pictures.

I notice one or two of my fellow reviewers have referred to 'errors' within these 224 pages. All I can say is, I didn't notice any. Hardly surprising I suppose, given my lack of scientific nous. Still, even if there ARE errors, I hardly think it matters in the general scheme of things. Oh, and that diagram on pages ten and eleven which is criticised in one of the other reviews is perfectly fine in the copy of this book that I have. It actually shares those pages with a little factoid to get you going for starters; Apparently the Sun contains 99.86% of the Solar System's mass... and the gas giant planets account for over 90% of what's left over.

The rest? Oh, that went on to form Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars! Mind-blowing, eh?

Tragically, I remembered after I had bought this that, while 'Cosmos' would be perfect as a coffee-table book, my own coffee-table is currently reserved for another hardbacked behemoth, Dinosaurs. That meant I had to quickly come up with an alternative destination for this particular beauty that would really do it justice. And that is now (temporarily!) the home of this friend of mine who is currently trying to sell his bachelor pad. I like to think it makes him look intelligent which, believe you me, takes some considerable doing. I'm pretty confident that any prospective homebuyers through his door will find this book absolutely irresistible. And, who knows, while they are grappling with the vastness of the cosmos and the size of the universe, it's just possible that they might not notice just how poky his flat is... .
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on 31 December 2008
I must have a re-print of this book because the venus orbit error is not present in my copy. However, there are still a few numerical errors here and there. In one of the paragraphs the author states that Earth traverses a circular orbit with a diameter of 300 million km and then puts in brackets (186,000 miles). Last time I checked 300 million kilometers was 186 million miles. It's unfortunate but superficial as a whole.

This book has the most amazing photography I have ever seen on this subject, that alone is worth the purchase. Buy it.
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on 28 August 2007
The photographs are superb, and with a little contemplation, inevitably mind-blowing. I also found the structure of the book very helpful to understand the context of all the phenomena. My copy certainly doesn't have the graphical errors on pp10-11 described in other reviews, and I haven't come across any obvious typos yet, so maybe there were some early editions out there? (although mine is not described as a reprint or anything like that).
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VINE VOICEon 8 November 2007
This book is an excellent introduction to the basics of astronomy and cosmology in that text is minimal - the beautiful images tell all and just drag you in.

The scale of the photographs moves from a close-up of an astronaut's footprint on the lunar surface all the way out to the famous "ultra deep field" photograph taken by the Hubble space telescope of galaxys forming "just" after the Big Bang.
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