In this approachable and fascinating biography of the galaxy, an astrophysicist and folklorist details everything humans have discovered—from the Milky Way's formation to its eventual death, and what else there is to learn about the universe we call home.
After a few billion years of bearing witness to life on Earth, of watching one hundred billion humans go about their day-to-day lives, of feeling unbelievably lonely, and of hearing its own story told by others, The Milky Way would like a chance to speak for itself. All one hundred billion stars and fifty undecillion tons of gas of it.
It all began some thirteen billion years ago, when clouds of gas scattered through the universe's primordial plasma just could not keep their metaphorical hands off each other. They succumbed to their gravitational attraction, and the galaxy we know as the Milky Way was born. Since then, the galaxy has watched as dark energy pushed away its first friends, as humans mythologized its name and purpose, and as galactic archaeologists have worked to determine its true age (rude). The Milky Way has absorbed supermassive (an actual technical term) black holes, made enemies of a few galactic neighbors, and mourned the deaths of countless stars. Our home galaxy has even fallen in love.
After all this time, the Milky Way finally feels that it's amassed enough experience for the juicy tell-all we've all been waiting for. Its fascinating autobiography recounts the history and future of the universe in accessible but scientific detail, presenting a summary of human astronomical knowledge thus far that is unquestionably out of this world. NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2022 BY PUBLISHERS WEEKLY AND SCIENCENET
NAMED A BEST AUDIOBOOK OF 2022 BY BOOKPAGE
Astrophysicist McTier delivers in her debut a delightful report on the Milky Way's inner workings, told from the galaxy's imagined point of view. McTier describes in her foreword how, growing up as a Black girl in rural Appalachia, she was enamored with space, and studying it made her feel connected to people and nature, and that theme of the harmony between humans and the planet pervades what follows. McTier, writing as the Milky Way, cleverly covers the origins of the universe ("Don't concern yourself with thoughts of what came before the Big Bang. That kind of knowledge is not for the likes of you"), how it might end (with another bang "could be kind of fun"), and key players in the history of space science, all in a droll, dignified voice gently scornful of human foible: "Your world is no longer set up to appreciate my splendor," she writes. McTier's narrator is authoritative, funny, and moving, whether considering humans' insignificance or the utility of myth ("That's what all your myths are: tools for understanding the natural world and communicating that knowledge to others"). McTier writes that her goal is to help people "understand how ephemeral existence is." She succeeds smashingly. The result is truly stellar.