Actual size of book: over 10" x 14".

Weighs 5 pounds on Earth--but only 2 pounds on Mars!


Good Reviews: 26

Bad Reviews: 0

Read an Excerpt from MAGNIFICENT MARS!


Mars has long offered the prospect of another living world near Earth. Although NASA's first spacecraft dashed visions of little green men tending canals, recent voyages have painted a picture of an intriguing planet that may have once resembled Earth, with warmth, water, and possibly life. Mars may answer the great question, "Are we alone?"; for if Mars, like Earth, gave rise to life, then trillions of other worlds throughout the universe have surely done the same.

Harvard-trained astronomer Ken Croswell set the standard for elegance and eloquence with his photographic triumph, Magnificent Universe. Now, with insightful prose and astonishing images, he presents the red planet's full glory in Magnificent Mars, showing volcanoes taller than Mount Everest, spiral-shaped polar caps of ice, and a canyon system that could stretch from Ohio to California. Here is a concise synthesis of the latest research on Mars, accompanied with the very best full-color images, expertly reprocessed to look even better than NASA's own versions, from the Hubble Space Telescope, Viking, Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, and other spacecraft. Highlights include a foldout panorama of the Martian surface; a never-before-published, rainbow-colored topographic map; and a sequence showing a full rotation of Mars, courtesy of the Hubble Space Telescope. Many of these images have never appeared in a book before. Few have ever looked so good.

In lyrical prose, Dr. Croswell weaves these stupendous images into a virtual tour of Mars by organizing them around the four elements--EARTH, AIR, FIRE, and WATER. From the northern plains of Vastitas Borealis to the towering Olympus Mons and other volcanoes of the Tharsis bulge, we explore the red planet's geology, topography, and surface. From the frigid climate to the massive dust storms that can engulf the entire globe, we examine the thin Martian atmosphere and the clues it preserves to the planet's wetter past. And, from the flood channels that spill into Chryse Planitia to the vast potential lakebed of ancient Hellas, we see stunning images of ancient rivers and floods, triggering speculation that a warm, wet Mars may have given rise to life that survives to this day. The tour concludes with a voyage to the planet's two potato-shaped moons, Phobos and Deimos, complete with rainbow-colored topographic maps. Unique color-coded tables on Mars, its atmosphere, its history, its moons, and NASA missions to the planets appear in a useful reference section, along with a glossary and suggestions for further reading.

With its large format, superb images, and compelling text, Magnificent Mars is the next best thing to standing on the red planet itself. In future years NASA will launch numerous missions to Mars, and Magnificent Mars is the definitive guide to what these spacecraft will see. Indeed, the first human explorers to Mars may want to take a copy of Magnificent Mars aboard their spaceship.

Ken Croswell is the author of several highly acclaimed books, including Magnificent Universe and See the Stars: Your First Guide to the Night Sky. He earned his Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University and lives in Berkeley, California.

"Our little neighbor Mars will be the first New World of the century that has just dawned. Ken Croswell has done a superb job in outlining what is known, and what is suspected, about the next home of mankind beyond the Moon."
--Sir Arthur C. Clarke

"A splendid survey of what we know about Mars, valuable both to the beginner and to the expert. It is skilfully written and beautifully illustrated. Recommended without hesitation!"
--Sir Patrick Moore

"Ken Croswell has done it again! By combining specially processed images of Mars with an elegant and informative text, he offers us a feast for the mind as well as the eyes."
--Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

"In Magnificent Mars Ken Croswell has succeeded in producing a fitting tribute to our spectacular neighbor. It is an accurate, up-to-date, and highly readable account of how the planet with its huge volcanoes, deep canyons, and dry riverbeds might have formed and evolved, and whether some form of life might have gained a foothold there. The numerous large-format images, many culled from the latest spacecraft returns, make one gasp in wonderment and awe at this truly magnificent Mars."
--Michael H. Carr, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, and author of The Surface of Mars and Water on Mars

"At last, a work that synthesizes the latest discoveries on the red planet into an accessible yet accurate form. Magnificent Mars is a magnificent book."
--Robert Zubrin, author of The Case for Mars and President of the Mars Society

"In Magnificent Mars, Ken Croswell explores the science, the culture, and the romance of the red planet. So thorough is Ken's treatment that, at times, I felt as though Mars had written its own autobiography."
--Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist and Director, Hayden Planetarium, New York City

"Ken Croswell's Magnificent Mars is visually exciting, beautifully written, and includes an excellent account of the greatest treasure hunt of all time--the search for signs of Martian life."
--Robert Jastrow, Director (retired) of the Mount Wilson Institute

"At last, that rare hybrid: a visually striking and scientifically reliable popular book on Mars for those who quit trusting NASA's hype machine after the 'Mars rock' fiasco. Although Magnificent Mars sparkles with entertaining history, it also offers an unusually balanced, fluff-free summary of research on, and debates about, the red planet. Taxpayers, legislators, and presidential candidates who seek straight talk on what we've found there--or might find after spending billions of additional dollars--couldn't get a trustier guide than Ken Croswell, one of the world's best astronomy writers."
--Keay Davidson, author of Carl Sagan: A Life

"Magnificent Mars is packed with interesting facts and statistics, yet Ken Croswell weaves the planet's physical credentials into a story of discovery so fluent and compelling that you forget you are reading a science book."
--Marina Benjamin, author of Rocket Dreams


Sky and Telescope:

This is truly a golden age in the exploration of Mars. In the last six years alone, two orbiters began remote-sensing missions and two more spacecraft have been launched toward encounters in 2004. A lander and a small rover successfully explored an ancient floodplain, and a new lander and a pair of larger robotic vehicles are on their way to explore a variety of Martian terrains in the next few months. And humanity just witnessed its best opposition of Mars since prehistoric times, allowing our ground- and space-based telescopes to tease out more detailed information about the red planet's surface and atmosphere than ever before.

This crop of new missions and observations has yielded an unprecedented and bountiful harvest of data and discoveries about Mars that planetary scientists are just beginning to try to comprehend--with more to come! Indeed, because there are relatively few Mars scientists, many of us have been so busy trying to help operate these projects and to acquire and process their observations that the implications of these discoveries about the history of the red planet have not really sunk in. Every once in a while a colleague will give a talk that is so provocative, or publish a paper that represents such an extreme shift of ideas from the "Viking era" view of Mars (data from the 1970s), that they will literally shock us all into realizing that we are in the midst of studying a completely new Mars.

This just-published book cashes in on this shock value and spectacularly and vividly lays out the evidence for this new view of our small planetary brother....Like Croswell's Magnificent Universe, this work is part coffee-table art book and part introductory astronomy text, and it is packed to the seams with large-format eye-candy images. True to the classic traditions often embodied in the naming and study of features on Mars, Croswell categorizes the major aspects of the planet under the rubrics of earth, air, fire, and water. It's an appropriate way to try to get a handle on the diversity of volcanic, tectonic, impact, and erosional features that have been found on Mars since the beginning of the era of high-resolution spacecraft imagery, as well as to drive home the unavoidable comparisons between Mars and Earth.

Croswell punctuates the images and other data in each of these broad topics with well-written and informative mini-lectures that highlight both the historical and more recent theories about the nature of Mars. And as an astronomer by training, his reporting of the latest data and ideas is generally factual, thorough, and balanced.

Interestingly, I found myself experiencing a strangely humbling feeling as I pored over the images of incredible and exotic places and processes on Mars. For each scene I was reminded by the accompanying text that often several equally valid hypotheses compete to explain what we see. The depth of our ignorance about Mars is indeed profound, which is, of course, why exploring the place is such a magnificent adventure.
--Jim Bell

Montreal Gazette:

After a seven-month epic voyage across interplanetary space, NASA's two exploration rovers are on final approach to Mars. Spirit takes the first plunge into the Martian atmosphere tonight while its twin, Opportunity, begins its perilous decent Jan. 24. With any luck, things will go more smoothly for NASA than they have for the troubled British Mars probe, the Beagle 2.

For readers inspired to make their own, armchair journeys to the Red Planet, here's a guide to essential titles, most published within the past year:

Magnificent Mars (by Ken Croswell). If you are looking for the most lavish and ultimate guide to Mars, look no farther. This coffee-table book is packed with hundreds of dazzling photos. The greatest images of the planet are all here, courtesy of the views from Hubble Space Telescope to the Pathfinder lander.

Croswell, a professional astronomer, tells a visually stunning story of the planet's mysterious, watery past, and hints of present-day life. Richly reprocessed, some of the images make you feel you are standing right among the rusty-coloured sand dunes. The definite showpiece for Mars buffs, however, is the foldout, rainbow-coloured topographic map of the entire globe, complete with labelled features. Until humans set foot on its red deserts, Magnificent Mars will just have to do.
--Andrew Fazekas

Pasadena Star-News:

Ever wished you could climb atop volcanoes that dwarf Mt. Everest, or snake down giant canyons that could reach from Ohio to California?

In Ken Croswell's new book, Magnificent Mars, you can do that and a whole lot more--vicariously, of course.

Croswell, a Harvard-trained astronomer, lecturer and author of several highly acclaimed titles on the cosmos, offers a breath-taking tour of the red planet through words and satellite images--many of which have been digitally reprocessed to create pictures of stunning clarity.

The book deftly navigates the planet's fascinating geology, topography, and atmosphere. More importantly, it offers a realistic debate on the possibility that life has--or may still exist--on the fourth world from the sun.

Croswell also explores the notion that Mars could one day be colonized by Earth: "In the future, the moons may serve as space stations to support Martian colonists, since their low-escape velocities allow any easy launch to the Martian surface."

With three spacecraft scheduled to land on Mars this month and in January,interest in the red planet is especially high. For those seeking a close-up look, this is a must read.
--Kevin Smith


We have invaded Mars. A fleet of alien spaceships--NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey and the European Mars Express--is now orbiting the red planet. Two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, recently bounced onto the Martian surface and are rolling across it.

Ken Croswell's coffee-table-format book, Magnificent Mars, makes a stunning introduction to the red planet. Croswell is an engaging writer, conveying facts and stories in clear and interesting language. The book's design is also striking, with typically a full-page photo facing white text on a black page.

Magnificent Mars starts with an historical overview, followed by four sections, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, that deal with geology, atmosphere, volcanism, and water (including possibilities for life). After a section on the moons Phobos and Deimos, the book ends with five large, colorful tables about Mars and missions to it.

Aimed at beginners, the text includes science results from the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey missions. For example, the Fire section contains about ten pages highlighted by the discovery that andesite--a moderately silica-rich type of volcanic rock--appears to be common on Mars in addition to the expected basalt, and that Mars's tallest volcano, Olympus Mons, is really only 21.287 kilometers high, not 26 km as previously thought.

This is a picture book and some of the images, in their nearly 11" by 14" format, are glorious, especially a series of globes with boldly colored topography. Other photos, blown up to large size, are pixilated and grainy. Nonetheless, this is an impressive book for any Mars fan.
--Charles Wood

National Review Online:

On Christmas morning, kids all around America will rush into their family rooms and rip open presents of Star Wars action figures, Lego spaceships, and Buzz Lightyear videos. If anybody turns on the TV during this ruckus, however, they're likely to receive a genuine message from outer space.

That's because the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft is scheduled to drop its Beagle-2 probe into the Martian atmosphere on December 25. If everything goes according to plan, it will be the first machine on Mars since NASA's Mars Pathfinder touched down in 1997. (Things don't always go according to plan, of course: Four years ago, the Mars Polar Lander crashed on the red planet.)

And that means kids will have lots of questions about the fourth rock from the sun. So you may want to tuck something else under the tree as well: Magnificent Mars by Ken Croswell, or Beyond by Michael Benson.

Magnificent Mars is a splendid coffee-table book that combines more than 200 pages of gorgeous photos with up-to-the-minute science about the second-most intriguing object in our solar system. After nearly four decades of exploration, we've got some great pictures of the place, even if none of them contain little green men. Many of the images in Croswell's book are so good, in fact, that they look like something you'd see from the window of an airplane flying over Nevada or Utah there are plenty of craters, but also canyons, riverbeds, and gullies. The landscape is at once alien and familiar.

The book includes lots of nifty visuals:

*Side-by-side photos of Earth and Mars reveal that Earth is quite a bit bigger, with about twice the diameter. I sort of knew this, but seeing them displayed right next to each other in photos really drove the point home.

*A picture of a blue Martian sky. Normally, it's pink. When the sun sets, however, dust in the air scatters the light and creates an effect similar to the blue moon sometimes observed on our own planet (which is not to be confused with the more common definition of a "blue moon" i.e., two full moons in one calendar month).

*A cyclonic storm near the north pole that looks like a terrestrial hurricane except that these wind storms on Mars don't produce rain or snow.

*We have earthquakes here. On the red planet, they're called "marsquakes." But they're also rare. Writes Croswell: "Mars is probably the perfect planet for quakephobes."

*You've heard about the "Face on Mars"? A fuzzy image of one Martian feature, taken by a Viking orbiter in 1976, does indeed look vaguely like a face. It inspired a generation of determined searchers for extra-terrestrial intelligence. In 2001, however, the Mars Global Surveyor got a much sharper image of the same region. Magnificent Mars prints them on the same page and, in a welcome bit of humor on the next page, the happy-faced Galle Crater.

*A picture of Phobos the larger of the planet's two moons casting a shadow on the Martian landscape.
--John J. Miller

Kansas City Star:

Either coffee-table books are getting better, or my ever-failing eyesight is making me more receptive to tomes that offer visuals in addition to text.

I imagine both are true. But let's focus on the former: Coffee-table books do seem to be offering more these days....

For those who just can't stay earthbound, this one will satisfy the desire to get out and explore that ol' solar system, or at least the red planet.
--John Mark Eberhart

Science News:

This volume includes the stunning images to be expected in an oversize, coffee-table book. In this case, they display the red planet's striking topography. More surprising is the depth of the captions that weave a comprehensive story of Mars. Four sections explore Martian geology from the planet's iron core to its rocky mantle and its red surface and into its thin, cold atmosphere. Brilliant color photographs gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope, Viking, and Pathfinder probes show volcanoes taller than Mt. Everest and gorgeous wind-sculpted sand dunes. Many maps detail various elevations and topographical elements from every corner of the planet.


I remember in the 60s following all the NASA spaceflights with enormous enthusiasm, culminating of course in Neil Armstrong's celebrated "one small step" onto the Moon. There was a hiatus for years, during which my interest lagged, but Mars has me intrigued once more and this informative and up-to-date coffee table book on the red planet, with its gorgeous photographs, is simply magnificent.

Croswell takes us on a journey in words and pictures from pole to pole--"you climb atop mighty volcanoes that dwarf Mount Everest, snake down giant canyons that could stretch from Ohio to California, ... even poke through craters that puncture the moons of Mars" (which, by the way, look very like lumpy potatoes). And he fires our imaginations by telling us that the planet surface preserves a record of ancient times that may give insights into whether the universe teems with life or we are, for all intents and purposes, alone.

Apparently Mars would have been friendlier to life billions of years ago. It's a bit chilly there now with a mean temperature of -67 Fahrenheit. The book quotes de Vaucouleurs, who compared conditions on the planet to those "in a terrestrial desert, shifted to the polar regions and lifted to stratospheric level." Despite this, the author tells us that it's the "friendliest planet in the solar system" next to Earth! Tables at the back of the book provide data on the planet, its moons, and its history, and on NASA missions.

I found the history of observations of Mars since 1877--and in particular the canal controversy and attempts to communicate with Martians--fascinating. Of course science fiction took up the cause, and the book mentions H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jonathan Swift, and others. Various missions to Mars are described. The Viking 1 lander set down on the surface in 1976 and took samples. Pathfinder collected rocks, and "proved enormously popular with the public" in 1997. And of course there is a mention of the controversy about putative fossils of microscopic life in Martian meteorites that have landed on Earth.

After the introductory material, Croswell covers the four elements--Earth, Air, Fire and Water--of the planet in (accessible) scientific detail. I was particularly struck by the fact that the north pole is nearly four miles lower than the south (there may even have once been a northern ocean), that the daytime sky is pink (from omnipresent dust clouds) and sunsets often blue, that Olympos Mons is a hundred times taller than Earth's biggest volcano, and that though canals are improbable, the planet once had rivers flowing across its surface--it lost two thirds of its original water!

Croswell ends with a suggestion that the moons of Mars--Phobos and Deimos--"may serve as space stations to support Martian colonists" and speaks of the red planet as "the future abode of adventurous terrestrial life," in which case science fiction would become fact. Exciting stuff and an impressive, engrossing book. It would make a fantastic gift, but I warn you, you'll be tempted to keep it for yourself.
--Hillary Williamson


Only Earthlings based in deep space could have escaped the excitement over Mars this past summer, as the red planet made its closest pass in 60,000 years. In Magnificent Mars, Ken Croswell writes of another "favorable opposition"--a time when people were also fascinated with the planet. That was back in 1892, when scientists were eager to prove or disprove the existence of Schiaparelli's "canals."

From Kepler, Schiaparelli, Lowell, and Hall through present-day observers, Croswell recounts the sometimes fantastic, sometimes ground-breaking theories about the planet. He also briefly discusses the etymological trail of Mars and touches on the planet as imagined by science-fiction writers, before launching into a thorough discussion of its evolution, chemical makeup, orbit, and other data.

Author of five other books on space, Croswell has a talent for distilling technical information into decipherable language. This isn't to say the book won't engage longtime students of Mars; Croswell, after all, holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard.

Helpful charts and tables summarize the book's text. One table chronicles 40 years of NASA's unmanned missions to and near Mars. Those missions, though often plagued by mishaps and outright disasters, have nevertheless provided the stunning--one might say stellar--images that fill this large-format book. Printed on black paper, the color photographs and topographic maps of the Martian terrain and view of the heavens are spectacular.

"It's not the vibrant Mars of Percival Lowell, nor the boring Mars of Mariner 4," writes Croswell, "but a complex planet whose history and mystery scientists are just beginning to decipher." Magnificent Mars is a readable and brilliantly illustrated account of all that we have learned and a little of what we have yet to discover about our neighbor.
--MiChelle Jones

Seattle Times:

A stunning volume; the photos and images are knockouts, and Croswell's informed text walks the reader through the history of Mars exploration, the elements of Mars (earth, air, fire, and water) and the moons of Mars. Life on Mars? Stay tuned.
--Mary Ann Gwinn

American Scientist:

Mars exerts a pull on more than just its two moons, Phobos and Deimos. With its once-in-60,000-years proximity to the Earth in the summer of 2003, the red planet drew the attention of astronomers, rocket scientists, skygazers and, of course, writers and book publishers. Among these was author and astronomer Ken Croswell, who has produced a splendid picture book, Magnificent Mars--a collection of striking images made by a dozen different spacecraft over the past two decades. The pictures were given some extra digital pizzazz by astrophotographer Tony Hallas, who has produced here what may be some of the most aesthetically pleasing portraits of the planet ever made. The accompanying text, written in a lyrical tone, plays on a theme of the four "elements": earth, air, fire and water--in other words, the planet's composition, climate, geologic activity, and watery history. Croswell sees in its past a lesson for those peering at this barren world through the lens of the telescope:

"To decipher the symphony of Martian history--a seeming cacophony of magma oceans, volcanic eruptions, asteroid impacts, torrential floods, global dust storms--scientists begin with time. As someone once said, time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once. Time converts a chord into a melody. It can arrange the events tangled together on the Martian surface into a story, a sequence of cause and effect. This story carries a moral, of a good planet gone bad, and thus a warning to residents of its vibrant neighbor. Exploring Mars, then, might help save the Earth."

New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Come October and November, I start stacking books up around the house, big books in big stacks, on the floor, on the stairs, on the coffee table. I keep a running tally of which books get picked up and fondled the most, which ones provoke "oohs" and "ahs" from guests and "Can we keep this?" from members of my family. Here are this year's winners, gently used, but still ready for Christmas giving....

Magnificent Mars by Ken Croswell [is] a photographic odyssey to the red planet, with reproductions of images from the Hubble Space Telescope, Viking, Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and other spacecraft that have served as our windows on Mars. With gorgeous color images, maps and a striking layout, this would be a hit with anyone who has an interest in astronomy.
--Susan Larson

Associated Press:

Ken Croswell's Magnificent Mars is an out-of-this-world tour of the red planet in text and photos, none showing little green men with antennae.
--Ron Berthel

Dallas Morning News:

Magnificent Mars describes the geology, topography and atmosphere of the planet, removing much of its mystery but opening doors to other possibilities, such as why Mars will be the first planet people land on. The book is a guide, organized around the four main elements of Mars: its surface, illustrated in rainbow-colored topographic maps; its atmosphere, which offers clues to the planet's past; its volcanoes, which once flooded the planet with lava and still erupt on rare occasions; and its water, which its surface attests to and which could indicate the presence of fossils.
--Laurel Mortenson

Houston Chronicle:

The number of lavishly illustrated books devoted to space is expanding as fast as the [universe]. Magnificent Mars by Ken Croswell delivers huge color photographs of the red planet.
--Fritz Lanham

San Jose Mercury News:

The book, written by Berkeley-based astronomer Croswell and illustrated with NASA images, is pretty magnificent itself.
--Charles Matthews

Tampa Tribune:

With the close proximity of Mars to Earth this past summer and three spacecraft landings imminent, the red planet is big in our thoughts as well as our universe. Croswell, an astronomer, says Mars may hold the key to whether there's life like ours in the universe. The wonderful color photos, area close-ups, and detailed maps of Mars's surface fire up an explorative fever.
--G. William Gray

Orlando Sentinel:

The best gift books not only offer beautiful illustrations that please the eye, but also provide meaningful texts that enrich the intellect and gladden the soul...Certainly one of the more far-reaching photography books, as it were, uses stupendous NASA color photographs to put forward compelling narratives of space exploration. Magnificent Mars by astronomer Ken Croswell is an erudite survey of the red planet from pole to pole, organized around the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water.
--Nicholas A. Basbanes

Memphis Commercial Appeal:

Let's make our books for holiday giving more than just big, expensive pretty tomes to be looked at once and put away with the fondue kit and the indoor weather console. This is a book for the eye, indeed, but also for the mind and the heart, a book to curl up with for the Yuletide days off you savor...Mars doesn't have just rust-colored dust; it has pink dust and beige dust, too, and it all looks great in the full-color photographs in Magnificent Mars by Ken Croswell.
--Frederic Koeppel

Los Angeles Daily News:

With a number of probes closing in on the red planet soon, Croswell provides a layman's guide to one of our nearby neighbors. There are plenty of photos and illustrations to help.
--Rob Lowman

Library Journal:

Mars's recent close approach to Earth has been accompanied by a small flurry of publications about our neighbor in the solar system. Astronomer and popular science author Croswell brings forth a contribution distinguished by its coffee-table format (and price). As an overview of Martian geology and hydrology for the lay reader, this well-organized book compares favorably with [another recent book]. The text itself is difficult to read, however, owing to the use of reverse type [white on black]. But the real strength of this title is its visual appeal; the copious digitally enhanced photographs and color-coded topographic maps are truly magnificent. Buy it for the pictures, if the budget permits.
--Nancy R. Curtis

Orange County Register:

Ken Croswell [is] one of the country's most eloquent space writers...Croswell's book is a wonderful and timely primer on Mars. Three unmanned spacecraft are scheduled to land on the red planet over a one-month period, starting Dec. 25, when the European Space Agency probe, Beagle 2, sets down at the Isidis Planitia Basin.
--Gary Robbins

Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Astronomer Croswell presents some of the most spectacular photographic images yet of Mars in this coffee-table book.
--John Mangels

Harvard Colloquy:

Using a large-format book to present NASA photography from recent spacecraft visits to Mars, noted science writer Croswell immerses readers in the world of Mars. In an informative yet conversational style, he tells what's special about the planet's terrain, atmosphere, and volcanoes; discusses evidence of Martian lakes and an ocean; and offers a brief history of man's attempts to understand the red planet.


Need a vacation? No, not just the in-laws' place for the holidays--somewhere thrilling, like Mali, or Tuscany in April. Egypt before the Second World War. Mars....Did you know that the red planet is really beige? It may be dry and icy now, but apparent signs that water once flowed on the surface have exobiologists--scientists who study alien life (or would, if they could find any)--in a tizzy of anticipation.
--Polly Shulman

Santa Monica College:

To call something "a coffeetable book" is usually a bit of an insult, implying that its sole assets are impressive size and, at best, large and gorgeous photos. But there are exceptions to every rule and Magnificent Mars, thankfully, is one of them. Croswell's book is not only, well, magnificent, but also a solid introduction to Mars and the current state of our knowledge of this most Earthlike planet in our Solar system. He makes full use of the recent observations of Mars Global Surveyor and the Mars Odyssey orbiter which are revolutionizing our understanding of this small but complex planet. Croswell uses the classical elements of "earth, air, fire, and water" to conceptualize the geologic forces which created the volcanic, tectonic, impact, and erosional features of Mars. Croswell makes clear our current understanding of Mars today as the product of four basic phases of Martian geologic history.

But the bald fact is that, as good and comprehensive and perceptive as the text is, it is the stunningly reproduced images that make it sing...Magnificent Mars is 10" by 14" and weighs 5 pounds. You'll want to lay it on a table in front of you to appreciate its high-resolution images. Pictures that you may have seen a dozen times before will look new and startling when seen in this "supersized" format. Even the "old" images from the Viking missions of the 1970s and Pathfinder in the 1990s look fresh here. Mars may be a small planet, but you'll agree that it is certainly "magnificent" after seeing Croswell's fine introduction.
--Jon Hodge

Read an Excerpt from MAGNIFICENT MARS!