The first thing that strikes you when you open the book Journey to infinity, by French physicist and science communicator Christophe Galfard, these are the images. They alone justify diving into this book.
Mr. Galfard presents photos taken by the space telescope James Webb, launched into space a little over two years ago. Photos of its predecessor, the famous telescope Hubbleas well as others from various sources complete the portrait.
A spectacular portrait, clearly intended to impress.
Photos of nebulae, these gigantic clusters of dust and gas that float in space, are particularly striking. As in the best paintings, you can spend long minutes getting lost in them. To think that these structures really exist above our heads is dizzying.
The highlight of the show comes towards the end of the book with two unfolding pages showing the Pillars of Creation, “one of the most iconic nebulae in the Universe”. “We feel that something powerful is happening inside the tips of the great pillars. We can even see lights inside, lights that could correspond to the birth of stars,” the author describes.
I tried leaving the book lying around my house. My 10 and 12 year old children were immediately interested, captivated by the photos.
Once you’ve had your eye on the visuals, you can look at the text and try to understand the author’s proposition. This, as the title indicates, consists of a journey through the cosmos, which starts from Earth and takes us further and further.
Based on the photos, the author speaks to us as if he were a travel guide. He speaks directly to us, explaining the images and announcing upcoming destinations with an effective sense of suspense.
But first, a chapter entitled “Preparations” gives us the basis for understanding what we are about to see. There we find explanations on what visible light is, but also invisible light (the telescope James Webb observed in infrared).
Throughout the book, the content is popularized and accessible to all, but the author takes the liberty of presenting some equations and graphs for more experienced readers.
During the following chapters, the reader will pass through stellar clouds, witness the birth of stars, and witness galaxy collisions. An entire chapter is devoted to black holes, these monsters which sit at the center of galaxies and which swallow everything, including light.
Concepts as complex as gravitational lenses, predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, are explained using diagrams.
In astronomy, seeing far means going back into the past since light takes time to reach us. Moving away from the Earth, the book’s journey takes us to the birth of the Universe.
We understand the immensity of the cosmos when the author presents us with a shot filled with galaxies and clusters of galaxies. “It covers the sky the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length,” explains Christophe Galfard. I admit that I am still speechless.
Journey to infinity is as much a work of the beautiful book type that we leaf through for its images as it is a reference work to which we will return to understand astrophysics concepts. Plus, we have the chance to discover it in French without having to wait for a translation!
“You might like to dive inside this cosmic whirlpool, but if you turn your head for a moment towards the Virgo Cluster, you will see a particularly gigantic galaxy in the northern part of the cluster. Unlike all the ones you’ve seen so far, this galaxy is not spiral. It’s not even flat. It has the shape of an egg. It is said elliptical and is a hundred, maybe even two hundred times the size of the Milky Way. This is the only galaxy you will visit in the cluster capital of Laniakea, but it has a nice surprise in store for you. »
Who is Christophe Galfard?
Holder of a doctorate in theoretical physics from the University of Cambridge, Christophe Galfard is described as a “disciple” of the famous British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. He is the author of Georges and the secrets of the Universeco-written with Hawking, from The Universe at your fingertips as well as the trilogy of children’s novels “The Prince of Clouds”. His lectures have reached more than 1 million people around the world.
Journey to infinity