The Helix nebula in the constellation of Aquarius is, at 450 light-years away, the closest planetary nebula to Earth. Shown above is its central star, a very hot white dwarf. Pictures of this and many other images obtained using the world's largest telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, are to be found in Majestic Universe: Views from Here to Infinity by Serge Brunier, translated by Storm Dunlop (Cambridge University Press, £25, $30.95). The book charts the latest advances in cosmology, and the way in which the spatial and temporal limits of the cosmos have, in the past decade, been pushed back virtually as far as the Big Bang.