In Light-Years There's No Hurry

Cosmic Perspectives on Everyday Life

7 July 2023


How seeing Earth through the eyes of an astronaut brings new wonder and meaning to life on our planet

One restless summer, anxious and dismayed by mounting crisis and conflict on Earth, poet and journalist Marjolijn van Heemstra learns of a phenomenon known as the overview effect. Experienced by many astronauts when beholding our planet from the remoteness of space, it’s a permanent shift in consciousness—an overwhelming sense of wholeness and connection with humanity and the planet. In Light-Years There’s No Hurry is the account of van Heemstra’s yearlong quest to experience the overview effect on Earth. We follow as she takes a night walk through a forest in search of true darkness, listens to the distant singing of exoplanets at a radio observatory and learns of prisoners working with astrophysicists to imagine possible human settlements on Mars. Contemplating the solace a cosmic perspective offers in our frenetic, divided world, In Light-Years There’s No Hurry is a lyrical, searching meditation on what it is to be human amidst the vastness of the universe.


"After studying Earth from space, some astronauts end up thinking that everyone and everything on this planet is interconnected. How do the rest of us feel about that? In Light-Years There's No Hurry starts by listening to exoplanets and talking to the prisoners helping us to imagine human settlements on Mars." — Simon Ings, New Scientist

"In the midst of an anxiety spiral at the dire state of the world—the politics, the climate, the existential threats facing humanity—In Light-Years There's No Hurry felt like a balm... [a] poetic exploration of zooming out. " — Rachel Cunliffe, New Statesman

"A charming, challenging book... The gentle activism of [van Heemstra's] own life—gathering with neighbours in parks at night, feeling cosmological connection beyond the city's glare—threads humanely through the book. " — Pat Kane, New Scientist

"This starstruck enquiry into the grand universe around us will leave you both humbled and awed." — Katherine May, The New York Times bestselling author of Wintering and Enchantment

"Understanding the universe involves a certain cold scientific detachment, but van Heemstra takes us on a delightful and entertaining journey in which the inescapable human story and interpretation of what it all means is blended seamlessly with discovery. A rich and thoroughly enjoyable read." — Charles Cockell, author of Taxi from Another Planet and The Equations of Life

"A lovely, lyrical book about the search for signs of life in these perilous times. Van Heemstra gracefully illuminates the difficulties and delights of connection in our increasingly chaotic world." — Jenny Offill, author of Weather and Dept. of Speculation

"Can such wild perspectives really transform us? Marjolijn van Heemstra spent a year trying to experience, on Earth, the rapture astronauts say they feel when they look back on our planet from space." — Simon Ings, New Scientist



147 x 218 mm • 192 pages


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