Space is otherworldly. There’s a reason why the cosmos has inspired so many mind-blowing works of science fiction on the page and screen. Where else can you find colossal craters, volcanoes erupting with flame, mystical planetary rings and alien moons that could have hidden oceans?
Try your coffee table.
The Planets is Chronicle Books’ new collection of over 200 unreal NASA images of everything from planets to cosmic phenomena, curated by Nirmala Nataraj, with a preface by the Science Guy himself, Bill Nye. These photos may inspire you to ponder the mysteries of the universe. Some were taken with ultraviolet and infrared cameras and then color-enhanced to give visibility to things that would otherwise elude the human eye. Outer Space as seen through the lens of a telescope or satellite can rival any of the special effects in Star Wars—not that the rings of Saturn or Pluto’s eerily Lovecraftian landscape need special effects.
You’re looking at images that are as astronomers saw them when they were first beamed down to Earth. Meaning, those Cassini shots of Saturn and its almost too-perfect rings are the same ones that wowed the orbiter’s mission team. Mercury’s Caloris Basin looks like an abstract work of art with craters scattered in all the right places.
The Sputnik Planum impact crater appears as a deliberately painted heart against the icy landscape of Pluto, which will always be a planet to me. Cassini (may it rest in peace) also captured views of the frozen Saturnian moon Enceladus that make the white orb look like a mythical realm that frost giants could emerge from at any moment.
No wonder Nye seriously questions whether Earthlings are really alone in this star system, this galaxy, this universe.
This portal into worlds beyond our own is now sold out at Chronicle Books but probably won’t be for long. You could navigate the archives of NASA for all these images, and you would have to if you want any of them for your desktop background, but the experience of turning the page from Mars to Saturn to Pluto is so much more sci-fi.