Thursday, October 17, 2013

Our Place in Space! Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond by David A. Aguilar

The discoveries astronomers make sometimes change the way we think about ourselves and our place in the universe.

In the next 25 years we may know the answers of these really big questions: What caused the Big Bang? What invisible force is speeding up the expansion of the universe? Are there other universes out there besides our own? What type of life exists on other planets?

And kids now in the middle school years will be the scientists who participate in answering these big questions! For a good start toward that role David A. Aguilar's Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond (National Geographic Kids)(National Geographic, 2013) provides science-smitten middle readers with a solid discussion and eye-catching illustrations that offer the latest information on our own solar system, from the orbit of Mercury all the way out to Oort Cloud on the border of deep space.

With ample color illustrations, from insets to double-page spreads, Aguilar begins with his chapter "What We Know" at the known beginning, the Big Bang, and the formation of solar system objects, asteroids, comets, and planets, from the resulting space dust.  Continuing outwardly, there are chapters titled "Tour of the Solar System," "To the Stars and Beyond," "Are We Alone?" and "Dreams of Tomorrow." With lots of little-known facts and citations  of the findings of various space probes,  from the manned Apollo missions through Explorer 1 in 1958, Mariner 4, the Viking Landers, Voyagers I and II, the COBE satellite, Magellan, the Hubble Telescope, the Mars Rovers, Cassini, and the New Horizons (flyby of Pluto),  Aguilar covers the basic information, the hot topics, and still unanswered questions of space science in a conversational tone and in a straightforward style that never talks down to his readers, filling them in on new knowledge and  firing their curiosity to know more.

For research paper writers, this book should be the first go-to source: it offers a reference-user's dream of an appendix, with timelines--a Timeline of the Solar System, Timeline of Humans on Earth,  and a Timeline of Astronomy--and an ample glossary of terms and an index with indicates pages with illustrations in boldface.  For browsing, school report writing, and general information for the science buff, this book is great for library or home reference shelves, and a great birthday or holiday gift for science-loving young people.

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