Astronomy Books Pdf Free Download

You have stumbled into the right place where you can gain total access to the best Astronomy books PDF like: Modern Astronomy: An introduction to Astronomy PDF, fundamental astronomy 6th edition PDF, textbook of astronomy and astrophysics PDF, fundamentals of astronomy PDF, astronomy 101 PDF, General Astronomy PDF, Fundamental Astronomy PDF, Astronomy for Dummies PDF, Cosmos: A personal voyage PDF, Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology PDF, Basic Astronomy PDF. Where do I find these Astronomy books PDF? Regardless, searching for Astronomy books PDF free download for hours on the Internet without achieving a meaningful result can be very tiring. Frequently, you might even wonder if there is a website that provides astronomy books for beginners in PDF format? Well, you don’t have to worry anymore.

The information below is for undergraduates, post graduates and professional learners who have been experiencing a difficult time in accessing college astronomy textbook PDF and who have become frustrated with the difficulties involved in getting Astronomy books free download PDF online without incurring much expenses or financial burden.

What Astronomy All About?

Celestial bodies, their movements, and phenomena related to them comprise the science of astronomy. The word derives from the Greek words , astron, and , nomos, which translates as “law of the stars” in English. Almost as soon as man appeared, astronomy developed. Because they could not explain what the firmament showed them, the first humans associated the firmament with magic. As a result, people began to seek signs and symbols from the sky which would use to indicate what was happening on earth, a practice which lasted for centuries.

After many years of observation, better statements and explanations about the universe were made that established the scientific basis for astronomy. Observing the stars in the cosmos and studying their motion is the essence of astronomy today. The role of an astronomer is to study the structure and evolution of stars, galaxies, planets, and other heavenly bodies.

Get Astronomy Books PDF Free Download

Ten Of The Best Books About Astronomy, Physics And Mathematics Of 2018

We offer these and lots more because we realize that finding some of the best astronomy textbook pdf
online is a difficult task. To make learning easier for students and professionals in the field of Astronomy so that they can be successful in their studies and career, we decided to equip graduates, post graduates and professional learners with the most popular Astronomy books PDF needed to help them excel  in their studies and career. On this site, you will gain unlimited access to essential Astronomy books PDF that will give you a tremendous boost in your college grades and set you ahead of your mates.

As an undergraduate or an expert learner, the importance of reading the most relevant Astronomy books PDF cannot be overemphasized. Reading the best Astronomy books PDF will give one the much needed theoretical and practical knowledge necessary for excelling in one’s study or for a thriving career in Astronomy. Again, on this site, you will be able to get lots of Astronomy textbooks PDF free download with no hassle involved. Getting Astronomy books PDF free download including any other related textbook is now a click away from you  now.

Best astronomy and space books 2021

Looking for a good read to expand your mind? This is our pick of the best astronomy books and best space books available.

Best astronomy and space books. Pic: ESA
There is a wealth of books published each year covering all aspects of space, astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology: books on practical stargazing and histories of spaceflight, astronomers addressing the latest burning cosmic questions and beginners’ guides explaining the basic principles of our Solar System, Galaxy and Universe.

In each issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine we pick the best astronomy and space books that have caught our eye that month and send them out to our expert reviewers for full scrutiny.

Here, in no particular order, is our pick of some of the top space and astronomy books. And if cinema is more your thing, read our guide to the best space movies of all time.

You might also like to take a look at our guide to the best space gifts.

Check with your local book shop to see if they have the following titles in store. If this is not possible, we’ve provided links to places where the books can be purchased online.

31 best space and astronomy books

Best books on practical astronomy


The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide

Backyard Astronomer's Guide Dickinson Dyer
  • Authors Terence Dickinson, Alan Dyer
  • Publisher Firefly Books

Get excited – the fourth edition of The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide is here. First published in 1991, the 2021 edition boasts 48 additional pages and five new bang-up-to-date chapters. Beautifully put together by authors Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer, the new edition firmly brings the book into the modern age of astronomy.

Spanning 416 pages and split into four parts, it covers how to get started, choosing and using a telescope, the telescopic Universe and capturing the cosmos. Within each part are chapters to wow and inspire and prove that you too can view the Milky Way, lunar eclipses, planets and constellations with just the naked eye.

There are some truly stunning images packed in to take your breath away and motivate you to get outside. Perhaps the most vital chapters are the guides on what binoculars to buy; plus choosing, buying and then using a telescope – an absolute must for those considering purchasing their first piece of optical equipment.

The guides explain everything from aperture, power and optical design to mounts and filters, each illustrated with handy photographs ensuring the reader knows the difference between a Newtonian and Maksutov telescope or an altazimuth and Go-To mount.

Among the pages are sky tours, star charts, future astronomical events and a fantastic short Moon tour by astronomy communicator Ken Hewitt-White.

The authors really help manage a beginner’s expectations, giving honest advice such as ‘leave astrophotography to the last’ – an important lesson that first-time astronomers often ignore.

This invaluable guide will appeal to anyone no matter their experience, the equipment they have (or not) or where they live. 

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Katrin Raynor Evans is a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the librarian for Cardiff Astronomical Society.



  • Author Tom Kerss
  • Publisher Collins

Kerss manages to cover a broad range of nitty-gritty lunar facts, ranging from the phases to the Apollo missions and a practical section on lunar photography using a smartphone or DSLR. The most exciting and informative segment is the ‘Introduction to the Lunar Atlas’, which divides the Moon into 16 sections and includes lunar photographs along with a map for the reader to learn the names of craters and mares. There is a two-page segment on the surface features and the categories they fall into, which ties in nicely with the maps and provides enough information for the observer to identify features on the Moon’s surface. There is much to learn from this instructive and enthusing book, which will appeal to selenophiles everywhere.

4.0 out of 5 star rating

The Ultimate Guide to Viewing the Cosmos

Ultimate Guide To Viewing The Cosmos book
  • Authors David Dickinson & Frazer Cain
  • Publisher Page Street Publishing

Authors Dickinson and Cain are here to ease you into astronomy, providing a complex but highly readable guide for amateurs (or even veterans who need a refresher), introducing the night sky and the tools needed to observe it. They introduce us to stargazing, discuss software and equipment to aid our understanding, braving the minefield of choosing the right telescope, the right aperture, the right mount and the right eyepiece. They show us how to build a basic Newtonian refracting ‘scope for under $50.  This is a companion for any astronomer at any level, but its main message is that we should not forget to simply revel in astronomy for the awe-inspiring experience that it is.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Ben Evans is the author of several books on human spaceflight

Best books on cosmology and astrophysics


The Disordered Cosmos

Disordered Cosmos Chanda Prescod Weinstein

Author Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

Publisher Hachette

Dr Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s debut book is two things: a journey into the world of cosmology and particle physics, and a refreshingly eye-opening insight into the too-often exclusionary arena that is science.

The book’s main premise is that physics doesn’t just affect us all as a society, but it taps into our natural desire to learn and understand; and yet one group for many centuries, and even to this day, has deemed itself worthy to tap into that knowledge above others.

It’s not often that physics is presented from the point of view of a black woman: in fact it’s so unusual that it’s a sad rarity. Do not pick up this book thinking it will be just another title on particle physics or dark matter. It does explore those areas in an engaging and accessible way, from the Standard Model of Particle Physics – its origins and where it currently stands – to the latest theories on dark matter, but
Dr Prescod-Weinstein’s experiences of navigating her way within the field of physics as a black woman – punctuated with many examples of racism and sexism – are interwoven throughout.

What I enjoyed most about this book was its raw honesty. I found its vibrant, bold and non-traditional take on the field of physics to be refreshing, saddening and frustrating to read at times – especially as a black woman myself – but very much needed. You may wonder what race has to do with physics, and the answer is everything, including why our skins are the colours they are (explained in captivating detail in the ‘Physics and Melanin’ chapter).

The popular science genre is in desperate need of new voices that aren’t the typical standard we are unwittingly used to, and as a starting point I cannot recommend this book enough.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Melissa Brobby is a science communicator and social media lead at the Institute of Physics.


Light in the Darkness

Heino Falcke book light darkness

Author Heino Falcke

Publisher Wildfire

In 2019, an iconic photo graced the front pages of newspapers all over the world: a slightly asymmetric orange ring, surrounding a pitch-black centre. The first image of a black hole, some 55 million lightyears away, put us face to face with the ultimate cosmic mystery: a one-way abyss in spacetime that may hold the key to our deepest understanding of nature.

Heino Falcke – the first director and the science council chair of the Event Horizon Telescope, respectively tells the inside story of how astronomers succeeded in linking millimetre-wave telescopes into a virtual ‘eye’ as large as the planet – the Event Horizon Telescope.

By the time the famous image finally was presented to the world, on 10 April 2019, the excitement of the team was palpable. “We have seen the gates of hell at the end of space and time,” Falcke said at the press conference.

A large part of Light in the Darkness is a pretty basic introduction to the Universe and astronomy in general. This makes the book accessible to a wide audience, but astronomy buffs may have preferred Falcke to delve deeper into black hole physics and the convoluted history of the Event Horizon Telescope instead. Then again, it’s a great read, providing quite a lot of detail.

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Govert Schilling is an astronomy writer and author.


Brief Answers to the Big Questions

Stephen Hawking Brief Answers book
  • Author Stephen Hawking
  • Publisher John Murray

“How did it all begin? Is there other intelligent life in the Universe? Is time travel possible?” These are just a few of the big questions that Stephen Hawking discusses in his final book. Hawking does not simply give us one-word answers, but walks us through his own thinking and divergences on each subject. The language is easy to follow and each chapter’s length keeps you engaged. In places the book touches on some complicated physics, but you will never feel lost. There are many inspiring parts that will stay with you and shape the way you think about these big questions in the future.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Laura Nuttall is a Senior Lecturer in Gravitational Waves at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth

Where to buy:


Our Universe: An Astronomer’s Guide

Our Universe Jo Dunkley
  • Author Jo Dunkley
  • Publisher Pelican

Dunkley takes her readers on a grand tour of space and time, from our nearest planetary neighbours to the edge of the observable Universe. The book follows a well-trodden path, starting with an overview of the history of astronomy and a description of our Solar System. Stellar evolution is next, followed by galaxies, clusters and the mystery of dark matter. The birth, evolution and future of the Universe are discussed in the final chapters. Explanations are always clear, metaphors are to the point and arguments easy to follow. If you feel like refreshing your background knowledge, or are looking for a present for your curious niece or nephew, this little gem certainly won’t disappoint.

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Govert Schilling is an astronomy writer and author of the book Ripples in Spacetime.

Where to buy:


The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)

Katie Mack The End Of Everything

Author Katie Mack
Publisher Allen Lane

The End of Everything explores five possible scenarios for the Universe’s ultimate demise: the ‘big crunch’, ‘heat death’, the ‘big rip’, ‘vacuum decay’ and the ‘ekpyrotic scenario’. Mack seamlessly weaves her way through the essential physics you’ll need to understand each Universe-ending possibility. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of, say, the ekpyrotic scenario because the author gives us a readily graspable explanation of this and many other concepts.

I loved the slight tangents the author makes as though she is speaking out loud; these touches make the book feel very personable. My favourite might be how she explains a topological defect in the same way as deciding which bread plate is yours at a fancy dinner. The epilogue is another highlight, where various cosmologists contemplate the end of the Universe. It’s intriguing to read that while this subject is ‘sad’, it really is all about the journey. 

I can’t remember coming across another book that solely focuses on the eventual destruction of all of reality. Mack is a great science communicator and I suspected I was going to like this book as soon as I saw her name; I am pleased to say it does not disappoint.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Laura Nuttall is a senior lecturer in gravitational waves at the University of Portsmouth

Where to buy


The Crowd & the Cosmos

Crowd Cosmos Lintott
  • Author Chris Lintott
  • Publisher Oxford University Press

Over ten years ago, The Sky at Night’s Chris Lintott started Galaxy Zoo, a citizen science project to classify galaxies. It was an instant success. At present, the Zooniverse encompasses over 70 science projects. In his entertaining book, Lintott describes the origin and evolution of the Zooniverse, with a focus on the astronomy projects, including discoveries like Hanny’s Voorwerp and Tabby’s Star. The real strength of the book is in the accessible description of astronomical research and future big-data facilities like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.  Once you start reading, his book is hard to put down.

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Govert Schilling is an astronomy writer and author

Where to buy:


Space: 10 Things You Should Know

Space 10 Things you Should Know
  • Author Dr Becky Smethurst
  • Publisher Orion Publishing Co

Dr Becky Smethurst has a wonderful gift for communicating some extremely exciting but also tough astrophysics in 10 bite-sized essays. If you’d like to know about supermassive black holes, the hunt for exoplanets and the expanding Universe (plus a lot more), then this book is a nice starting point. I really enjoyed the conversational writing style and the divergences that come with this. It made me feel as though Dr Becky was sat next to me. My favourite chapter is the last, which touches on the importance of searching for the unknown knowns. There’s something wonderfully inspiring communicated through the pages, and I closed the book feeling a bit more excited about my own research.

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Laura Nuttall is a Senior Lecturer in Gravitational Waves in the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth

Where to buy:


Dark Matter & Dark Energy

Dark Matter Brian Clegg
  • Author Brian Clegg
  • Publisher Icon Books

In the past few decades, it’s become clear that we have focussed on a mere 5% of the Universe – the rest remains almost entirely unknown. Astronomers divide this mysterious majority into two types of ‘stuff’: dark matter and dark energy. Brian Clegg’s book is a clear and compact look at the current state of knowledge about these twin cosmic mysteries. After an introductory account of the discovery of both phenomena, the first half of the book focuses on dark matter. The second half tackles dark energy, with some basic cosmological groundwork followed by a discussion of dark energy and what it could mean for the future of the cosmos. It’s hard to fault as a brief, easily digestible introduction to some of the biggest questions in the Universe.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Giles Sparrow is a science writer and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society

Where to buy:


Time: 10 Things You Should Know

Time 10 things you should know colin stuart
  • Author Colin Stuart
  • Publisher Seven Dials

For such a familiar concept, time is actually a rather complex topic. There are subtleties, such as how exactly
we measure it, but also debates as to what it even is in a physical sense. But it turns out that discovering more about the nature of time doesn’t have to take a lot of it. In Time: 10 Things You Should Know, you can cover a lot of ground in just 100 pages.

The book is made up of 10 essays, each 10 pages, covering a different aspect of time. To begin with, they’re fairly straightforward, starting with the definition of how we measure time – you’ve heard of leap years, but why on Earth do we need leap seconds? It moves on to other ways we mark and measure time, both here on Earth and with time-travelling telescopes.

The middle chapters cover the very nature of time and how we experience it, and it’s not long before you find yourself discussing the implications of general relativity. The later chapters of the book investigate how time can be manipulated and what that might mean.

Whether that means trying to slow time (or even stop it!) or travel through it (being careful not to kill your grandfather!), it can be quite philosophical at times.

The book is incredibly easy to read and very enjoyable. It’s full of little facts and turns of phrase that you can share with others. And with its slightly philosophical angle, it might even get you thinking about how you spend your time.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Chris North is Ogden Science Lecturer and STFC Public Engagement Fellow at Cardiff University

Best books about spaceflight



teneues voyager

Author Joel Meter et al

Publisher teNeues

Put together by five seasoned photographers and prefaced by Voyager Imaging Team member Garry Hunt, this large-format volume will blow the socks off any interested coffee-table reader. The authors tell the history of Voyager, our first foray to all four giant planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – which revealed their multitude of moons and rings, their atmospheres and magnetospheres, and the clues they may reveal about our origins. The real beauty of this book is its gorgeous assemblage of remastered photographs. There are pictures here that I have never seen before. And those I had seen were brought so wondrously and vividly to life that they left me open-mouthed in awe.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Author Ben Evans is the author of several books on human spaceflight and is a science and astronomy writer

Where to buy


Tim Peake: Limitless

Limitless by Tim Peake
  • Author Tim Peake
  • Publisher Century

Peake takes us from his early experiences with homemade explosives through his days as a flair bartender, to the army and test pilot training, right up to touching down from space and being whisked away on a world tour. In between, he gives tips on how to crash-land in a helicopter, how to behave under interrogation, and how to best confront Jeremy Paxman. Some tales are definitely not for the squeamish, and it will certainly dissuade readers of any notion that astronauts lead a glamorous life.

When he comes to his brief time on the ISS, the book is somewhat underwhelming. One almost feels cheated that everything
went so straightforwardly, with no terrible calamity, nor any need for the survival skills he honed in Sardinian caves.

But while the section on the Space Station may not be what we might expect, the book gives an incredible insight into the mind of an adrenaline junkie, test pilot, father and astronaut which many more than just spaceflight enthusiasts will enjoy.

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Katie Sawers is a student of physics and astronomy at the University of Glasgow.

Where to buy



Beyond Stephen Walker

Author Stephen Walker

Publisher William Collins

Hollywood screenwriters often include a ‘save the cat’ scene early on, to give audiences empathy with their hero. Stephen Walker’s history of Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflight starts with a ‘save the dogs’ example.

Canine cosmonauts on a 1960 Vostok test flight touch down safely in Siberia, but the KGB had insisted on including a self-destruct device in case of a landing in the West. It activates anyway, and two rescuers draw lots for who disarms the bomb – both wish to try.

This sets the scene of what follows: brave people trying to accomplish great things despite the dysfunctional society they inhabit. The KGB had to be talked out of putting self-destruct devices on board human Vostoks too.

This is not a narrow biography of the straightforwardly heroic Gagarin, but tells the wider story behind his 106-minute flight, extending to his fellow cosmonauts as well as their American rivals. On average cosmonauts were a good 10 years younger than their astronaut equivalents, with much less flight experience.

The Soviet emphasis was on fitness, not flying ability; these first cosmonauts were more cargo than crew. The author joins the dots to the grim tally of test animals flown (and often sacrificed) on both sides of the Iron Curtain, preparing the way for human explorers.

A documentary maker, Walker returned to primary sources and living witnesses wherever possible. The result is a gripping story, rich in novelistic detail. Highly recommended.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Sean Blair writes for the European Space Agency website

Where to buy:


Space Shuttle: A Photographic Journey

Picturing Apollo 11 book
  • Authors JL Pickering & John Bisney
  • Publisher University Press of Florida

Historian JL Pickering and journalist John Bisney’s anthology of rare photographs, Picturing Apollo 11, honours the people who strove against all odds to land a man on the Moon. Only a handful of their chosen images are readily recognisable; most have not been seen before. The book covers January to August 1969, from crew selection to their emergence from quarantine onto the world stage. The authors avoid familiar images in favour of rarer ones, often quirky, including 7-year-old Andy Aldrin trying on his father’s helmet. The book conveys the sense of awe at Apollo’s monumental scale and the photographic clarity is profound.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Ben Evans is the author of several books on human spaceflight and is a science and astronomy writer

Where to buy:


Handprints on Hubble

Handprints Hubble
  • Author Kathryn D Sullivan
  • Publisher MIT Press

Penned by America’s first woman spacewalker, Handprints on Hubble tells the story of Kathy Sullivan, whose career took her from a pressurised space suit to the highest altitude ever reached by the Space Shuttle. As one of the first women picked by NASA for astronaut training, her memoir mixes autobiography with a solid appreciation of the Hubble Space Telescope, arguably the most important science instrument ever placed into orbit. As a ringside spectator of Challenger, Sullivan’s memories are tinged by tragedy and she remained soberly aware that she might never return from a mission. Behind every scene Hubble itself looms large – “like a beautiful silver gift from Tiffany’s” – whose contribution to understanding our place in the cosmos needs no qualification.

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Ben Evans is the author of several books on human spaceflight and is a science and astronomy writer

Where to buy:


Space 2069

Space 2069 book by David Whitehouse
  • Author David Whitehouse
  • Publisher Icon Books

It is rare to read something that so closely mixes science fiction with reality, but Space 2069 does just that. From the pen of former BBC science correspondent David Whitehouse, this book affords us an intelligent portrait of where we may be in the next half-century: from an Antarctica-like set-up of international Moon bases to outposts on the Red Planet.

Whitehouse’s simple style draws on his own childhood aspirations and it is not hard to discern simmering frustrations as he ponders our lack of progress since 1969. His outline of 2069 – centenary events from ‘First Footprint Sanctuary’ at Tranquility Base, and colonies on Mars whose residents have never walked the Earth – is resoundingly optimistic, but still tainted by a dark thread of gloom.

However, after reading this book you will be left with a glimpse of a future that’s far from utopian, but certainly offers a sense of realism for what the next 50 years might hold.

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Ben Evans is the author of several books on human spaceflight and is a science and astronomy writer


Shuttle, Houston

Shuttle Houston Paul Dye
  • Author Paul Dye
  • Publisher Hachette

NASA’s Space Shuttle programme ran from 1981 to 2011, launching 135 missions, and during that time Paul Dye was its longest-serving flight director.

With a clear voice from the onset, Dye deftly crafts the story of his many years working on the Shuttle programme around a broader story of NASA at that time, including the design, planning and implementation of Shuttle missions to Spacelab, the Mir Space Station, the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Devoting whole chapters to spacecraft functionality and orbital mechanics, as well as stories of the training hours, routines and customs of the teams engaged in mission control, the book is somehow both referential and personal.

Packed with fascinating anecdotes from each mission, Dye attributes people, the expertise of engineers and the quick reaction times of teams as the real measure of success in his career, and the privilege he was afforded in being trained by the best.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Niamh Shaw is an engineer, lecturer and science communicator

Where to buy

Best books about history of astronomy


Vera Rubin: A Life

Vera Rubin a life book Jacqueline Mitton, Simon Mitton

Authors Jacqueline Mitton, Simon Mitton

Publisher Harvard University Press

Until Vera Rubin, no one was really sure about dark matter. It was a theory, but without her work, few were truly convinced by it. That all changed when Vera Rubin’s work on galaxies showed dark matter was needed to explain what she was observing.

Rubin is a fascinating character, not only for her great scientific achievements but for the example she set in how to tackle gender inequality in science. There are some lovely excerpts of letters in the book, showing her using logic and her position to speak up for equality in a way that is both polite and direct.

This book is hugely detailed, both in its use of primary sources and in the explanations of the science involved. This is a great introduction to an important woman and her work.

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Emily Winterburn is a science historian and author of The Quiet Revolution of Caroline Herschel

Where to buy:


No Shadow of a Doubt

No shadow book
  • Author Daniel Kennefick
  • Publisher Princeton

At 2.13 GMT on 29th May 2019 it was exactly 100 years since Arthur Eddington and Frank Dyson stood before their telescopes ready to capture images of an eclipse they hoped would confirm Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The book tells of the lead up to the eclipse expeditions, details the expeditions themselves and looks at the aftermath: how Eddington and Dyson’s results were received at the time and the discussions regarding their validity up until the present day. It also discusses the role of this expedition in making Albert Einstein a household name. This is a fascinating book, full of insight into the relationship between theory and experimental proof.

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Dr Emily Winterburn is the author of The Stargazer’s Guide: How to Read our Night Sky.

Where to buy:


Zwicky: The outcast genius who unmasked the Universe

Zwicky Outcast Genius book
  • Author John Johnson Jr
  • Publisher Harvard University Press

Fritz Zwicky is a name most astronomers learn early their careers, due to both his scientific achievements and his combative personality. This biography explores the life of this world-renowned physicist. The book spans an eventful period in world history that formed the backdrop to Zwicky’s astronomy research along with his contributions to the US war effort and rocketry. It includes details of many of Zwicky’s personal encounters, putting his various feuds and confrontations in context. It’s very interesting to read and provides a fascinating insight into a rich, complicated character and his engagement with the world he was part of.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Dr Chris North is Odgen science lecturer and Science & Technologies Facilities Council public engagement fellow at Cardiff University

Where to buy:

Best books about planets



Planets Emily Drabek Maunder

Author Emily Drabek Maunder

Publisher National Maritime Museum

In Planets, Dr Emily Drabek-Maunder takes us on a whistle-stop tour of our Solar System, outlines what we know about how the planets form, introduces us to the search for planets around other stars and takes a brief look at the prospect of life beyond planet Earth.

The discussion of our planetary neighbours largely focuses on their size, atmosphere, orbital period and temperature. Characteristics that we find are key to the search for exoplanets and life are detailed in the chapters that follow.

In only 110 pages, the book was never going to be able to provide a comprehensive overview of all our knowledge acquired to date, but then that was never its aim: as with other titles in the new Royal Observatory Illuminates series, Planets provides a brief, accessible introduction to the subject, and it does so very nicely. It is well written, with an easy to read style that reminds me of a Royal Institute Christmas lecture.

Figures, photographic plates and footnotes all serve to support the text throughout the book, and a very helpful glossary is provided at the end. As a concise introduction, Planets manages to cover an impressive amount and will undoubtedly leave the reader keen to learn more.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Dr Penny Wozniakiewicz is a lecturer in space science at the University of Kent

Where to buy:


The Secret Lives of Planets

The Secret Lives of Planets
  • Author Paul Murdin
  • Publisher Hodder & Stoughton

Paul Murdin manages to compress billions of years of Solar System history into fewer than 300 pages, as well as providing a timeline and glossary of both our nearest and furthest neighbours. The details of each object’s classification, rotation, diameter and surface temperatures are given in helpful boxouts so the reader doesn’t get lost in all the information. The Secret Lives of Planets aims to be “a user’s guide to the Solar System”, but it also turns out to be an inspiration to look at the Solar System as a long cosmic journey, and find our place in it.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Sandra Kropa is a science journalist and writer

Where to buy:


Mars: A Journey of Discovery

Rod Pyle Mars
  • Author Rod Pyle
  • Publisher Andre Deutsch

Author and NASA consultant Rod Pyle has written a lot about the history of space exploration, but this book is a masterpiece. Pyle writes about the mission scientists and the emotions felt as they witnessed the first ever landing on the Red Planet. This book not only illustrates the brightest moments from different Mars missions, but also talks about failures and lost spacecraft, spelling out the history of our species’ curiosity with Mars and explorations of its surface. It’s an excellent read, both for those who know a lot about Mars and those who have only recently become fascinated by the Red Planet.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Sandra Kropa is a science journalist and writer

Where to buy:



Saturn Reaktion
  • Author William Sheehan
  • Publisher Reaktion Books

Saturn’ is a detailed exploration of the most well-known of the ringed planets in our Solar System. It is an amazing account of how much we can learn from so little; how, over time, new things slowly reveal themselves, and how many questions we have yet to answer about this infamous giant world. As well as drawings from early observations of the planet, the book features some spectacular images taken by the Cassini orbiter and other missions, which combine with Sheehan’s writing to show how our understanding of Saturn has gradually deepened over the centuries. The book concludes with a detailed guide to observing Saturn in the hope that further monitoring, by both amateur and professional astronomers, will help to reveal the planet’s many remaining secrets.

4.5 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Hannah Wakeford is an astronomer who studies the atmospheres of exoplanets at Space Telescope Science Institute

Where to buy:


Once upon a time I lived on Mars

Once upon a time I lived on Mars. Kate Greene

Author Kate Greene
Publisher Icon Books

HI-SEAS (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) is a geodesic dome isolated on the slopes of Mauna Loa, a volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island. From 2013 to 2018 it was used by NASA for six ‘analog missions’ – field tests in locations that have physical similarities to space environments – to Mars. Crews of ‘almost astronauts’ remained in complete isolation for up to a year, in conditions as close as possible to those expected of a small crew on the Red Planet.

This book follows the first of those missions, which took place over four months in 2013 and which studied, among other things, the role that food resources would play on a long-term mission.

The crew of six were cut off from the world, with a 20-minute delay imposed on communications with Mission Control, no social media and limited email contact with family.

They ate a combination of ready-made meals and ones that they cooked for themselves, carried out experiments and other studies, and went outside on EVAs in mock spacesuits
on the Mars-like slopes of the volcano.

Greene uses various aspects of the mission to explore wider issues in our lives, such as the role food plays, the problems of boredom and communication, the part of the human guinea pig and the effects of isolation.

It is a timely book that resonates strongly when many of us have been forced into solitary isolation or been cooped up with family for extended periods due to COVID-19 lockdowns – the things we miss, the minor niggles that can so easily build into major conflict when living in close proximity and privacy is at a premium.

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Jenny Winder is a freelance science writer, astronomer and broadcaster

Where to buy:


Fire & Ice

Fire and ice natalie starkey
  • Author Natalie Starkey
  • Publisher Bloomsbury

Fire and Ice: the Volcanoes of the Solar System is a masterful geology lesson disguised in the excitement of fire, ice and alien worlds.

When you think of a volcano, you are probably thinking of something you made at school: a tall cone-shaped structure with bubbling ‘lava’ cascading down the side. In this assumption you would be right, but also simultaneously completely wrong.

Fire and Ice will introduce you to a whole range of volcanoes, from those forming under pressure at the bottom of the ocean, to the moving wonder of hot spots from the core of Earth forming island chains in the middle of nowhere, to those that are pouring out blue flames – and those are just on our planet.

Beyond Earth, you will learn about the largest volcano in the Solar System (Olympus Mons), the cryovolcanoes made of solid ice spraying jets of salty water tens of kilometres into space, and how a world can be stretched so much it has tides of molten rock that are five times as high as the ocean tides on Earth.

This is highly recommended for anyone who has ever been fascinated by the glow of a volcano, or wondered if there is life ‘out there’.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Dr Hannah Wakeford is an astrophysicist at the University of Bristol who studies exoplanets using space telescopes

Best astronomy books for kids


Dr Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System

Dr Maggie Grand Tour
  • Author Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock
  • Publisher Buster Books

If you fancy snowboarding off Pluto’s slopes and frozen mountains, experiencing ‘diamond’ rain on Uranus or taking a 20-year plane journey from the Moon to the Sun, you could take a family trip around the Solar System with space scientist and The Sky at Night presenter Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock. In her book, aimed at older pre-teen children, a cartoonified Dr Maggie takes readers on an informative journey. It’s beautifully designed, with an appealing layout and plenty of illustrations. Packing in the entirety of the Solar System, its planets, objects, exploratory missions and history in 120 pages aimed at children is no easy task. Aderin-Pocock has made a valiant effort to do so.

4.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Shaoni Bhattacharya is a science writer and journalist

Where to buy:


Curious Cosmic Compendium

Curious Cosmic Compendium
  • Author Martin Vargic
  • Publisher Michael Joseph

Which is the biggest and the most massive star in the Universe? Where is it located and when was it born? All the answers to these questions and many more, plus maps of places of universal importance, can be found in this Curious Cosmic Compendium. The author, artist and internet sensation Martin Vargic displays the history and wonders of the Universe in the typically creative way that brought his Miscellany of Curious Maps and Map of the Internet such praise. In more than 100 pages filled with facts and illustrations he takes the reader on a journey through the history of the cosmos.

5.0 out of 5 star rating

Reviewer Sandra Kropa is a science journalist and writer

Where to buy:


The Mysteries of the Universe

The Mysteries of the Universe by Will Gater
  • Author Will Gater
  • Publisher DK Children

Do judge a book by its cover: this one is as gorgeous as it looks. Not only that, it contains the full glory of the cosmos in a language that’s simple and engaging enough for an eight year-old.

Although The Mysteries of the Universe is aimed at children, it really is a treat for all ages. Visually stunning, with a fabulous selection of space photos, artworks and illustrations, it is also all-encompassing in its astronomy.

We start our adventure gazing at the sky on Earth, and from here the book sweeps seamlessly outwards: to the Moon, the inner and outer planets, right to the Oort Cloud, with everything in between. From there the Universe unfolds: we see nebulae, black holes and star-forming nurseries. We leave the Milky Way and whizz past the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, Stephan’s Quintet; past spiral, elliptical and lenticular galaxies and far back to the distant early Universe.

While life on Earth may be challenging, this book goes a long way to inspiring the next generation and showing them just how big and wonderful the world of astronomy can be.

Study on Scholarship Today -- Check your eligibility for up to 100% scholarship.

Leave a Comment