The Beauty of Space

By Phil Plait | August 17, 2011 12:40 pm

[UPDATE, 22:00 Mountain US Time, Aug 17: Well, that was easy! I just checked, and the book has blown through it’s goal! BABloggees rock. Thanks! But this doesn’t mean you still can’t donate if you want to.]

I have a few picture books of astronomy on my shelf, and I always wonder how the publishers are able to print such magnificent quality books and make money. Some of the books are pretty pricey, as you might expect — a hundred pages of glossy full-color pictures ain’t cheap! — so it seems like it would be hard to do this without a major publisher backing you.

Of course, that was before the intertubez. My friend, astronomer and artist Dan Durda, let me know about a gorgeous book called The Beauty of Space. He sent me some promo material, and it truly is a very cool book. It’s about the history of space art, and includes astonishing and spectacular artwork from some of the best people making it (including Dan).

A book like this might be hard to publish on its own, so the editor, Jon Ramer, has made it a Kickstarter project. He’s hoping to raise $2000 by September 15th to defray the costs of printing and distributing the book. If you pledge $35 you get a softcover version, and if you pledge $60 you get the hardcover edition.

If you know about space art, you’ll see familiar names in the book: Mark Garlick, Don Davis, Lynette Cook, Chesley Bonestell… and Al Bean, from Apollo 12, the only artist to walk on the surface of the Moon, who wrote the book’s foreward. And if you’re not familiar with space art, well, you should be. This book is great way to get there.

I post a lot of astronomical images here at BA Central, of course. But art can capture views we can’t get from Earth: standing on the surface of a moon, seeing the Sun through Saturn’s rings; looking back to our home galaxy from 30,000 light years above it; resting on a Martian mesa while a dust storm looms nearby.

These are flights of imagination that inspire me, and I think they will you too.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (9)

  1. PSP

    Man, I love this stuff too. As I mention in the comment on the Kickstarter site, I remember being entranced by the work of Chesley Bonestell way back in the 50’s. I seem to remember one called “The Great Wall” or some such, a magnificent portrait of a long escarpment on the Moon. Astronomical art can bring us *there*, in ways that our wonderful robotic kids (like Opportunity) can’t quite. I hope others contribute to this effort, so we can all look, then close our eyes to imagine what’s it’s like to be immediately present in the majesty of these amazing worlds.

  2. I wish I had $1,000 to donate. It sounds like a great cause, and I’d love to get those “bonuses”. I’ll see what I can do.

    Some years ago (probably about 20, now that I think about it), I had a chance to buy an autographed Alan Bean print for something like $200. I waited too long, and they were sold out before I decided to go for it. :-(

  3. alfaniner

    I seem to remember one called “The Great Wall” or some such, a magnificent portrait of a long escarpment on the Moon.
    I wonder if that’s the one at the National Air and Space Museum? It was the first image that came so mind when I read that. I recall it being one of the things I was absolutely entranced by, even with all the other great stuff. (Is it still there?)
    Also one of my favorite exhibits at the Kennedy Space Center was the art display. I was quite disappointed that the museum shop didn’t have a book with prints of the art.
    I’m putting in for this one!

  4. Chipped in a dollar. Wish I weren’t jobless and broke right now; I’d love to give more (and get a copy). But it looks like they’re well on their way to the goal.

  5. Looks superbly marvellous. Hope this idea works. :-)

    I love the astronomical space art and Lynette Cook is a particular fave. I would strongly recommend her ‘Infinite worlds’ book on exoplanets co-written with Ray Villard. (Click on my name here for link.) It’s a great and very easy read and has some absolutely breathtaking bits of spaceart in it.

    Some of the magnificent illustrations in some of the astronomy magazines are so remarkable you can just about feel the heat of Venus or the chill of Mars emananting from them. That’s one of the things that captured and still has my inspiration for astronomy in the first place. :-)

    There are some truly talented and wonderful astronomy artists out there – I’m even lucky even know one personally, she knows who she is. :-)

  6. Pepijn

    I love how patronage of the arts seems to be coming back as the driving force behind the arts, due to the Internet. More and more books and albums are being financed beforehand by the public via sites like I think that’s an excellent development which will connect artists to their public directly and hopefully finally kill of the old dinosaurs that are the music studios, the book publishers, etc…

  7. Tim Cole

    I’ve got a bunch of space art books, but there’s always room for more. This one looks beautiful indeed.

    Incidentally, this is the first I’ve heard of Kickstarter. It’s a wonderful idea, one of the best uses of Internet technology I’ve seen. Public subscriptions used to be used to help fund observatories. Perhaps we could use this mechanism to do similar things.

  8. Hi Phil,

    Jon Ramer here, just wanted to say thanks to you and all your readers for the support. We made our goal in less than 24 hours! But that doesn’t mean folks don’t need to pledge any more. If we get enough pledges we can print even more books and get space art out to even more people, which is what we really want. The more people who see and are inspired by art depicting the incredible sights out there in the universe, the sooner humanity will go and see the sights for real. Thanks & keep looking up (or at a canvas!).


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