Using a wealth of high-resolution images collected by a fleet of telescopes, satellites and inter-planetary probes, Cosmos Close-up embarks on a voyage across the universe, pausing only to zoom in on the most spectacular planets, stars, galaxies and nebulae. After a fly past of our planetary neighbours we reach the edge of the solar system - a mere 15 light hours away - emerging into interstellar space and heading for the heart of our galaxy. The rhythms of stellar life unfold before our eyes: dark clouds of dust and gas blaze with clusters newly smelted stars, dying stars bloom and fade as planetary nebulae, or tear themselves apart as supernovae. Navigating through thick swarms of stars, we reach the galactic core, a gravitational maelstrom of exotic stars in the thrall of a supermassive black hole. Hundreds of thousands of light years must be covered to reach the Milky Way's companions, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, and millions more devoured before we cross true intergalactic space. Out here we watch the hidden lives of galaxies: we see them locked in gravitational combat, tearing each other apart or swallowing their companions whole. Now billions of light years from Earth, we can discern the large-scale structure of the universe: massive conglomerations of galaxies gather like grains of dust on a veil of cobwebs, warping space with their tremendous gravity. Having crossed an almost unimaginable 13.4 billion light years, we encounter a wall of radiation. Here our voyage into the cosmos must finally end, for we have reached the very edge of the visible universe: what stands before us is the afterglow of the Big Bang itself.
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Giles Sparrow studied Astronomy at University College London, and works as an editor specializing in popular science. He is the author of - amongst other books - The Genius Test, The Universe and How To See It, The Stargazer's Handbook and Hubble: Window on the Universe and was a major contributor to Dorling Kindersley's Universe.
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