Science Book a Day Interviews Govert Schilling


Special thanks to Govert Schilling for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – Deep Space: Beyond the Solar System to the End of the Universe and the Beginning of Time

Govert Schilling is an acclaimed and prize-winning freelance astronomy writer in the Netherlands. His articles appear in Dutch newspapers and magazines, but he also writes for New Scientist, Science and BBC Sky at Night Magazine, and he is a contributing editor of Sky & Telescope. He wrote over fifty books (including a couple of children’s books) on a wide variety of astronomical topics, some of which have been translated into English, German, Italian, and Chinese. – from Govert’s Homepage

Govert’s English Homepage:!/english/govert-schilling/
Govert’s Twitter:

#1 – What was the impetus for Deep Space?

Black Dog & Leventhal had already published the lavishly illustrated book ‘Solar System’, written by British author Marcus Chown, which was based on an iPad book that Marcus had created for Touchpress ( They wanted to publish a ‘sequel’ about ‘the rest of the Universe’. Since I had translated Marcus’s book into Dutch, I was in touch with Black Dog & Leventhal, and offered them to produce this book for them, which they subsequently gave the title ‘Deep Space’.

#2 – You take your reader on a tour of space and behind some of the mechanisms behind bodies in our universe. How did you come to choose these processes?

I was extremely fortunate in getting very much freedom in organizing and structuring this book. Eventually, I chose all the separate topics, came up with the basic book plan, and selected all the images. Obviously, the structure neede to more or less reflect the structure of ‘Solar System’, with much emphasis on individual objects. So I decided to create a number of chapters/themes to group a wide range of stars, nebulae, galaxies etcetera, and I used those objects as a peg to describe astrophysical processes like stellar evolution, nucleosynthesis, galaxy evolution and cosmology. I also added a short chapter on the solar system (basically recapping Marcus’s book), since I felt that readers would not understand why an astronomical coffee table book would *not* describe our own system of planets. Finally, I suggested to include a number of ‘intermezzos’ on topics like the history of astronomy, the electromagnetic spectrum, telescopes, astronomical satellites etcetera.

#3 – With so many images available to use, how did you come to choose the images you did?

You are right: the number of available astronomy images is overwhelming. In quite a number of cases, I chose rather well-known images (like Hubble photos of the Orion Nebula), since they are really iconic. On top of that, though, for many individual objects I searched for additional images that would provide a more thorough picture of the respective object, like an infrared photo of a galaxy, a closeup of a nebula, or a useful artist impression. I believe part of the success of the book is due to the fact that the picture research and selection process has been carried out by someone with a good working knowledge of the field.

#4 – Who were you trying to appeal to for this book? Astronomy lovers? The general public? Students? Teachers? What has the response to the book been?

Like ‘Solar System’, ‘Deep Space’ is aimed at everyone with a latent interest in the wider world that we inhabit. Serious amateur astronomers may find most of the textual content of the book familiar, although I still believe that the brief mini-chapters provide a lot of concise and up-to-date information that might be helpful to many astronomy buffs. The book is not particularly aimed at students and/or teachers, but really at a pretty general audience. I hope that the beautiful pictures and the nice graphic design will draw many people into reading the accompanying texts.

#5 – Are you working on any new books/projects you can tell us about?

After writing ‘Deep Space’, I have produced another lavishly illustrated book in Dutch, called ‘Schitterend heelal’ (‘Magnificent universe’), on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope. This book, published in late April 2015, combines imaginative flowing text with over 120 carefully selected Hubble photos, each of them accompanied by a mini-essay like caption. A German translation of the book is expected for next year. Besides that, I am thinking of doing a more focused book on recent developments in a particular field of astronomy, more or less comparable to my earlier books ‘Flash! The hunt for cosmic super explosions’ (about gamma-ray bursts) and ‘The hunt for Planet X. New worlds and the fate of Pluto’, on the discovery of the outer solar system.

[Image Credit:!/english/govert-schilling/ ]


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