Many of my books are text-intensive works of reference so it was a pleasant contrast to produce a sumptuously illustrated volume such as this. It had its origins in a request from the publisher for a book of Hubble Space Telescope pictures. I pointed out that there already were such books on the market and, in addition, HST had its limitations – the best wide-field views are still taken from ground-based observatories and the spectacular images from space probes deserved consideration, too. Thus was born this photographic tour of the Universe.

Many months were spent searching not only for the best images but also the best-quality versions of them. NASA’s online Planetary Photojournal now contains beautifully reprocessed versions of classic space probe pictures that had previously been seen only in garish and grainy prints or duplicate transparencies. In addition, I was able to incorporate the latest electronically processed versions of David Malin’s pictures taken at the Anglo–Australian Observatory, which have wider fields and improved colour fidelity than the versions previously seen.

Around this visual thread leading from the Earth to the edge of the visible Universe I wrote explanatory text and captions and produced page layouts in Quark XPress. The book first appeared as a hardback in early 2002 under the title The Times Space, it being part of a series of books produced by HarperCollins for The Times newspaper in London, which is owned by the same parent company. The cover, designed by HarperCollins, is a particular favourite of mine (see left).

At the start of 2004 a revised paperback edition appeared under the title The Times Universe. This included some new Hubble Space Telescope pictures, such as the superb view of the Helix Nebula on the cover (see above), and a revised spread on cosmology incorporating the observations of the cosmic background radiation from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe. Sadly there were to be no further editions.