Cosmic Perspective, The

Jeffrey O. Bennett / Megan Donahue / Nick Schneider / Mark Voit  
Total pages
July 2013
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Cosmic Perspective, The
9 February 2019 223.80


Building on a long tradition of effective pedagogy and comprehensive coverage, The Cosmic Perspective, 7th Edition provides a thoroughly engaging and up-to-date introduction to astronomy for non-science majors. The text provides a wealth of features that enhance student skill-building, including new group work exercises that engage students in active learning, helping them retain concepts longer and build communication skills for the future.



  • A cosmic framework establishes a solid foundation of understanding by exploring our place in the universe and how astronomers know what they know, fleshing out these themes throughout the text. This approach motivates students to learn and helps them develop both a personal understanding of astronomy and a lasting appreciation of the process of science.
  • A comparative planetology approach helps students understand the similarities and differences between planets and the processes that shape them. Planet-by-planet information combined with this comparative approach gives students a deeper understanding of our solar system, other solar systems, and the prospects for life in the universe.

Current Content

  • Thorough coverage of new discoveries includes the latest information on solar system missions, the search for extrasolar planets, observations of stars and galaxies, and cosmology. Because recent discoveries have a big impact on our understanding of the universe, reflecting them in the text ensures that students understand astronomy in a current and accurate context.


  • Consistent Chapter Structure Focused on Learning Goals provides a clear, student-friendly path through the book. It consists of:
    • Motivational learning goals, phrased as questions at the start of each chapter, that help students focus on key concepts
    • Sections written to address each learning goal. Every section of each chapter is written to answer a single learning goal question, keeping students focused on core ideas
    • Visual summaries revisit learning goals at the end of every chapter, using text and key figures to reinforce what students have learned in each section
  • The Process of Science , a major theme integrated throughout the main text, is reinforced with a set of short answer questions at the end of each chapter.
  • Annotated Figures and Photos act as the voice of the instructor to walk students through the key ideas presented in complex figures, photos, and graphs.
  • Cosmic Context Figures combine text and illustrations into accessible and coherent two-page visual summaries that help improve students’ understanding of essential topics.
  • A visual overview of scale foldout gives students an at-a-glance reference to review one of the most important ideas in astronomy.

New to this Edition


  • Many new subjects are covered to reflect the significant scientific discoveries that have been made since the previous edition. A new emphasis on scientific literacy in the text prepares students to understand discoveries that they are likely to learn about in the next decade, helping them gain a better grasp on the process of science.
  • Major updating of content covering such important topics as the nature of dark matter, the search for extrasolar planets, global warming, and the properties of the planets, asteroids, comets, and other members of our solar system. New emphasis is placed on the frontiers of astronomy, reflecting our growing understanding of the early universe.

Updates include:

  • Dark matter. Spectacular progress in cosmic microwave background observations during the past decade has provided primary evidence that dark matter consists of exotic particles. In this new edition, coverage of the Big Bang theory precedes the discussion of dark matter, dark energy and the fate of the universe.
  • Extrasolar planets. In the time since the last edition was published, the number of known extrasolar planets has more than quintupled, the number of known Earth-size planets has gone from zero to many, and our general picture of planetary systems has evolved to the point where we can now make strong statistical statements about planets throughout the universe.
  • The solar system. New results and images from spacecraft exploring our solar system give students a close-up view of our nearest neighbors in space. The major features of the solar system introduced in Chapter 7 are now all explained in a single section, making it much easier for students to understand that the solar system they see today is a natural consequence of the nebular theory.
  • Frontiers of astronomy. Recent results from major space observatories, including Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra, and Fermi, has provided new insight into the birth of the universe, galaxy formation and evolution, and the cycling of gas in the Milky Way.
  • In addition to these content updates, this new edition features:
    • Revised Mathematical Insight boxes: These have been substantially reworked throughout the book. Although we have kept the same basic mathematical content and level, we have revised them to make the explanations shorter and simpler, and therefore more accessible to students.
    • New Group Work Questions: The end-of-chapter exercise sets now include problems that can be done easily in class to foster peer learning and classroom participation.


  • New group work exercises in each chapter can be easily done in class to foster peer learning and in-class participation.
  • An all-new pedagogical approach to dark matter and cosmology, based on our new understanding that our universe consists primarily of dark matter and dark energy.
  • Chapter 3 is completely reorganized and rewritten for new development in our historical understanding.
  • Visual Skills Check questions at the end of each chapter have been emphasized to help students build their visual interpretation and critical thinking skills by asking them to analyze information provided in graphs and photos.

Table of Contents


1. Our Place in the Universe 

2. Discovering the Universe for Yourself

3. The Science of Astronomy

S1. Celestial Timekeeping and Navigation


4. Making Sense of the Universe: Understanding Motion, Energy, and Gravity

5. Light and Matter: Reading Messages from the Cosmos

6. Telescopes: Portals of Discovery


7. Our Planetary System

8. Formation of the Solar System

9. Planetary Geology: Earth and the Other Terrestrial Worlds

10. Planetary Atmospheres: Earth and the Other Terrestrial Worlds

11. Jovian Planet Systems

12. Asteroids, Comets, and Dwarf Planets: Their Nature, Orbits, and Impacts

13. Other Planetary Systems: The New Science of Distant Worlds


S2. Space and Time

S3. Spacetime and Gravity

S4. Building Blocks of the Universe


14. Our Star

15. Surveying the Stars

16. Star Birth

17. Star Stuff

18. The Bizarre Stellar Graveyard


19. Our Galaxy

20. Galaxies and the Foundation of Modern Cosmology

21. Galaxy Evolution

22. Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Fate of the Universe

23. The Beginning of Time


Jeffrey Bennett, a recipient of the American Institute of Physics Science Communication Award, holds a B.A. in biophysics (UC San Diego) and an M.S. and Ph.D. in astrophysics (University of Colorado). He specializes in science and math education and has taught at every level from preschool through graduate school. Career highlights including serving 2 years as a visiting senior scientist at NASA headquarters, where he developed programs to build stronger links between research and education, and proposing and helping to develop the Voyage scale model solar system on the National Mall (Washington, DC).