The Hubble Space Telescope. No other telescope combines instant name recognition with the production of consistently spectacular images. Yet few people outside of the astronomy community realize that Hubble is now at the apex of its imaging capabilities. A collection of stunningly detailed pictures, made possible by the new Wide Field Camera 3, has yet to be incorporated into a popular-level book. Until now.
Hubble's Universe will be the premier venue for the Hubble Telescope's most recent visual splendors. Bestselling astronomy writer Terence Dickinson showcases extraordinary late-breaking pictures, many of which have yet to receive wide distribution as news stories or in publications outside scientific papers, and presents a breathtaking portfolio drawn from an archive of over 500,000 existing Hubble images.
The accompanying text balances accuracy with accessibility, Dickinson's hallmark. And thanks to the author's familiarity with Hubble's history and discoveries and his access to top Hubble scientists for insight and accuracy, the text includes facts and tidbits not found in any other book. Combined with hundreds of brilliant images, the clear, succinct and illuminating narrative brings to life the fascinating forces at work in the universe.
Terence Dickinson is the author of 14 astronomy books, including the international bestseller NightWatch and The Backyard Astronomer's Guide.
In addition to being one of the greatest scientific instruments of all time, the Hubble Space Telescope has given humanity a spectacular legacy of beautiful images of the universe. The best of these are displayed--and explained--in this book.
As a teenager in the 1950s, I was captivated by the science fiction of the brilliant visionary Arthur C. Clarke. Browsing the local library, I stumbled upon Clarke's early nonfiction work The Exploration of Space, published in 1951. Half a century later, The New York Times described this classic text as "a seamless blend of scientific expertise and poetic imagination that helped usher in the space age."
It was in the pages of Clarke's book that I first encountered the concept of a telescope in orbit around our planet. This telescope would peer at the universe from well above the interference of the Earth's ever turbulent atmosphere, which relentlessly blurs the view in ground-based telescopes and makes stars twinkle. Ahead of his time, Clarke outlined the advantages of an orbiting telescope compared with a telescope that might, at some future point, be installed on the Moon's surface, as had been suggested decades earlier. "Even the Moon's extremely tenuous atmosphere might affect certain delicate observations," he wrote. "[Moreover,] an observatory in space would be able to survey the complete sphere of the sky."
The orbiting scope should even be able to detect planets of nearby stars, enthused Clarke, "something quite out of the question with Earth-based equipment." I couldn't wait! During breaks at my first summer job in the shipping department of a publishing house, I made endless pencil sketches on large sheets of brown paper. I imagined just what the photos from that great eye-in-the-sky would look like--images that would show surface details on the moons of Jupiter, views deep within the core of the globular cluster M13, and so on--until my boss saw what I was up to and cautioned me not to waste any more shipping paper.
Today, the orbiting telescope Clarke envisioned is known as the Hubble Space Telescope, and it has been in service since 1990. That telescope has captured stupendous full-color images that depict the subjects of my crude brown-paper sketches and hundreds more of objects I hadn't yet conjured. What a pleasure it has been to select more than 300 of Hubble's best cosmic portraits for this book. While many of these images have never before appeared in print outside scientific journals and research publications, some were released by the Space Telescope Science Institute as recently as spring 2012. All are accompanied by captions and text that will serve as navigational tools as you undertake this breathtaking journey.
Hubble's Universe is a celebration of the astonishing achievements of a remarkable discovery machine. Enjoy the excursion!