Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Lives of the Planets

Lives of the Planets
© 2007 Richard Corfield
304 pages

            Ever wanted to take a tour of the solar system, but were deterred by that little problem of explosively decompressing once in the vacuum of space? Lives of the Planets takes readers on a tour by remote, through the history of American, Russian, British, European, and Japanese probes.  Like the moons of Jupiter, it contains a lot of diversity in a modest number of pages, being a physical exploration of our cosmic neighborhood, a history of our robotic journeying, and lectures in brief  along in the trail.  Each stop along the way presents cause for a new topic;  Richard Corfield writes on atmospheric dynamics near Venus, the origins of life on Earth, the vagaries of gravitational mechanics near Jupiter and the asteroid belt, etc.   Pluto is treated with the rest of the Kuiper bet objects.  There's a great deal of entertaining astronomical history to be found here -- history both distant (the formation of our solar system) and recent (our exploration of the same).  Actual content on the planets is harder to come by, however, and therein lies this very likeable book's weakness:  the information on the planets, if gathered together, might constitute a full essay on their own. This is an utterly delightful collection of thoughts on our exploration of the solar system, and what the search has taught us about astronomy in general, but it doesn't quite deliver as a work on the planets in particular. 


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