We live in a very special time, one in which science has provided an emerging understanding of how earth and the universe came to be. The road to this knowledge was paved with 175 years of astronomical images acquired by the coupling of two revolutionary technologies.....the camera and telescope. With ingenuity and determination humanity would embrace these technologies to tell the story of the cosmos and unravel its mysteries.

This book presents in pictures and words a photographic chronology of man's aspiration to understand the universe. From the first fledgling attempts to photograph the moon, planets, and stars, to the marvels of orbiting observatories which record the cosmos at energies beyond the range of human vision, astronomers have always relied on images to "break through" to the next level of understanding. A subset of these "breakthrough" images has profound significance in documenting some of the greatest milestones in modern astronomy.

This unique volume unveils the science and history behind 100 of the most significant astronomical images of all time. The authors have carefully selected their list of images from across time and technology to bring to the reader the most relevant photographic images spanning all eras of modern astronomical history.

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Reviews of "Breakthrough"

Breakthrough! was selected as "Outstanding Academic Title" by "Choice" magazine, a periodical of the American Library Association.

Outstanding Academic Title
Community College top 75

To simply say this is a book about astrophotography does it a disservice. It is a beautifully illustrated volume starting with a daguerreotype illustration of the moon (1852) and ending with a picture of the Mars Phoenix lander on the Martian surface (2008). In between, noted astrophotographers Gendler and GaBany present a series of illustrations that show the development of the art of space imaging and how these images changed the world's understanding of the universe. Some are as iconic as Armstrong's footprint on the lunar surface (1969) and the Earthrise shot from the Moon (1968). Others provided essential data as to the universe's birth and evolution, e.g., the mapping of cosmic microwave radiation of the entire sky by COBE (cosmic background explorer) between 1989 and 1993. A series of deep-space objects taken by the Hubble Space Telescope are breathtaking as well as instructive, since each has an accompanying narrative. Historically a picture of the moon taken in 1974 marks the transition from photographic plates to electronic imaging. This excellent book should be on the shelves of all libraries.

Summing Up: Essential. All readership levels.

Reviewer: C. G. Wood, Eastern Maine Community College
Recommendation: Essential
Readership Level: All Readership Levels
Interdisciplinary Subjects:
Subject: Science & Technology - Astronautics & Astronomy

Review in Sky and Telescope Magazine, December 2016

Click HERE for the PDF of the Review


Review in "Sky at Night" March 2016 (click here)


Review by Olly Penrice (Astronomy Now)

This is an excellent book by two of the best amateur deep sky imagers in the world. The first half consists of a substantial history of astronomical photography, taking us from the early days in the mid nineteenth century through to the present. The discoveries made possible by the camera are set in their scientific context so, when an understanding of astro-physical or cosmological concepts is necessary, it is provided in terms clearly accessible to the lay reader. This is the first time I have encountered a history of astronomical science told consistently from an astrophotographic point of view and it proved very interesting indeed.

Forum members active in deep sky imaging will enjoy reading about their own place in the history of astrophotography because, as the book makes clear, they certainly do have one. The pioneers came from both amateur and professional camps and the emergence of the affordable and sensitive CCD camera at the end of the twentieth century opened up what the book descibes as a world of 'extraordinary images from ordinary places.' I believe that all imagers would find their hobby enriched by the background provided here.

The second half of the book is devoted, as the title suggests, to a presentation of a selection of the most striking and influential astrophotos ever taken. Most are professional images, many are Hubble, but they are supported by well written explanations of the science inherent in the pictures. The appeal of the stunning and colourful astrophoto is almost universal but many who admire the pictures for their drama and beauty are left wondering exactly what it is that they are looking at. This book will tell them.

There are a couple of factual slips of no great importance, a few typos and some occasionally clunky textual editing which it would be nice to see the publisher put right in subsequent editions. I would be very surprised if the book is not reprinted because it has so much to offer the astronomy community.

Because the pictures are so stunning it would make sense to buy the book in paper or e-book form rather than Kindle.

In a nutshell, highly recommended and flagged up as a perfect present for the astronomer in your life! I'll point this review out to the good people at FLO in case they feel it would sit well with the other books on their list.



By S. Crouch on February 19, 2016

Some years ago I was asked to give a talk at my local Astronomy club on astrophotography and I naturally thought that a historical introduction should be included. Reference material on the history of astrophotography was, however, surprisingly hard to find and I would have appreciated having a copy of “Breakthrough” when I was preparing my talk because it is a very comprehensive account of what has been happening in the process of taking pictures of astronomical objects over the last 150 years. Non-astronomers should also find it interesting because it explains the science of general photography as well.

The book starts with an overview of the evolution of astrophotography up until the present day (including imaging beyond the visible spectrum) and then continues with a more detailed discussion of various breakthrough images the first of these being a daguerreotype of the moon taken by Draper in 1840 with the astounding (by today’s standards) exposure time of 20 minutes! All the pioneers are covered (Common, Barnard, Huggins, etc) and the science behind each image is always included and the evolving technology explained where appropriate. Not surprisingly, there is an extensive discussion of the techniques of colour astrophotography including the pioneering work of William Miller which many people would have forgotten. David Malin with his innovative technique of additive colour photography is well covered too.

Images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope are extensively covered and the science behind the HST images is well described. Some of my favourite Hubble images are missing but the authors have chosen to highlight the images that produced breakthrough science and I think they have this just about right.


By Max Corneau on January 1, 2016

Breakthrough! 100 Astronomical Images that Changed the World, by Robert Gendler and R. Jay GaBany is a monumental work, worthy of its title and subject. Don't buy the Kindle version. To fully appreciate this great work, purchase the hardcover and run your fingers across the luxurious pages as your eyes drink in the imagery. This is a quality product, befitting the subject matter.
This book appeals to me because it spans beyond the realm of what many astronomical dilettantes refer to as "pretty pictures" that pollute popular astrophotography in the first decade of the 21st century. Beginner through experienced amateur and professional astronomers will appreciate the painstaking descriptions surrounding each of the 100 images. My only criticism is that I would have liked to see references beyond the image sources and a more detailed index.
Breakthrough! is presented chronologically, beginning with a wonderful introductory chapter on the birth and evolution of astrophotography. Notably, this book led me to reconsider the co-development of telescopes and photography and how our understanding of the Universe would be different had either technology not advanced. Pay close attention to this stage-setter chapter and you will be rewarded with a deeper appreciation for the giants who went before us.
The authors weave their own world-changing images into the top-100 with the humility one would expect of such highly respected practitioners. Breakthrough! is timeless...a future classic.

By Robert Gray on January 25, 2016

This book covers roughly 150 years of astronomical history in as many pages, presenting some of the most striking images and the stories behind them—many of the images icons of our time. I learned a lot about the big universe out there, and about the tools used to see it in the ‘light’ of many different wavelengths. Almost every page is a pleasure, and many images show more subtle detail than is usually seen, due to high-quality printing (hardcover), expert image selection, and occasional images created by the authors. It's a treat!