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Raman Prinja, Illustrated by Chris Wormell
Big Picture Press
112 pp.
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Planetarium is designed to replicate the experience of walking through a museum exhibition. It succeeds in this goal, capturing the residual wonder that one feels when stepping out of a quiet planetarium into the bright light of day. Raman Prinja takes readers on a tour of space, starting from our own Solar System. We stop at the Sun and every planet along the way, then travel through asteroids, comets, and dwarf planets, before moving on to exoplanets, other stars, our Galaxy, and finally our Universe. Each page is accompanied by Chris Wormell’s beautiful illustrations, which make the book feel truly timeless.

Like any good museum display, each page is bite-sized and accessible to its target age group (8- to 12-year-olds). Prinja makes liberal and clever use of analogies to convey just how big (or small, or difficult) things are. He answers questions before the reader can even ask them, often with a nice touch of humor: How do we find other planets? What would it be like to stand on Venus? Who decided on the constellations we use today? What holds the arms of a spiral galaxy together?

The book concludes with theories of how our Universe will end, which range from “The Big Split,” where the Universe’s growth accelerates until it tears itself apart; to “The Big Crunch,” a contraction of the Universe down to nearly nothing; to “The Big Chill,” the continual expansion of the Universe until it slowly cools and dies. This should feel more grim than it does, but Prinja cuts the tension with wonder at the mysteries that are left to uncover and a persistent sense that we are on the cusp of knowing more.

About the author

The reviewer is a publications assistant at Science.