At long last, we now have copies of a wonderful new book on space art, titled The Art of Space, by frequent Astronomy magazine contributor Ron Miller. Published this month by Zenith Press (Minneapolis, 224 pp., hardcover, $35, ISBN 9780760346563), the book offers 350 color photos of some of the most amazing astronomical illustrations in the history of space art. There are also great forewords by Cassini planetary scientist Carolyn Porco and by scientist and space artist Dan Durda.
At first blush, this is a phenomenal book to browse. The sections all provide incredible glimpses of the history of space art, with thematic sections on planets and moons, stars and galaxies, spaceships and space stations, space colonies and cities, and aliens. So clearly the focus is on science, but there’s also a strong sci-fi component, which is part of the allure of astronomical art. As Astronomy’s founder used to say, it is the mission of space art to give us “man’s dreams of worlds unseen,” to take us places where imaging can’t take us.
Describing the highlights of the book is a bit tough because there’s so much here. From early artwork from the 19th century to visions of 20th-century pioneers like Chesley Bonestell, from cartoony visions of comic book days to incredible, vivid, photorealistic gems — all is well represented. This is a bit of a bible for the space art genre. If you’re interested in this subject, it’s a book that you’re simply going to have to have.
Favorites do jump out. Pat Rawlings’ weather probe in the saturnian cloud deck is magnificent. Bonestell’s “Saturn as Seen from Titan” is still chilling to see yet today. Lynette Cook’s vision of a gas giant planet with a pulsar hovering in the deep background is spectacular. While they are speculative, the many visions of future space stations and alien life are incredibly enriching. We can see in the visions of alien bone structure that which biologists on Earth now believe: Alien civilizations would also follow Darwinian evolution.
This book is a keeper — a must-have for astronomy enthusiasts. I heartily encourage you to pick up a copy and join the group of space visionaries!
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