Books

Non-Fiction Titles on Planetary Science and Space Technology

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Imaging Our Solar System

As we speak, stunning new snapshots of our Solar System are being transmitted to Earth by a fleet of space probes, landers, and rovers. Yet nowadays, it is all too easy to take such images for granted amidst the deluge of competing visuals we scroll through every day. To truly understand the value of these incredible space photos, we first need to understand the tools that made them possible.

This is the story of imaging instruments in space, detailing all the technological missteps and marvels that have allowed us to view planetary bodies like never before. From the rudimentary cameras launched in the 1950s to the cutting-edge imaging instruments onboard the Mars Perseverance rover, this book covers more than 100 imaging systems sent aboard various spacecraft to explore near and distant planetary bodies. 

 

Featured within are some of the most striking images ever received by these pioneering instruments, including Voyager’s Pale Blue Dot, Apollo’s Blue Marble, Venera’s images from the surface of Venus, Huygens’ images of Titan, New Horizon’s images of Pluto and Arrokoth, and much more. Along the way, you will learn about advancements in data transmission, digitization, citizen science, and other fields that revolutionized space imaging, helping us peer farther and more clearly across the Solar System.

 

Review 

BBC Sky at Night Magazine 
 

"Of all the data returned by space missions, it's the images that immediately grab our attention. It seems that, as a species, we always wonder what lies over the horizon. Along with over 100 images, including some of the most iconic pictures yet taken, in Imaging Our Solar System the author takes us from the earliest flights to carry a camera aloft by balloon, through to the present and beyond.

As most space missions have included some form of imaging system, this book covers a lot of ground. It's divided into three parts: the early missions to image the Moon and fly by our nearest neighbours; through the digital revolution which brought the ability to really process and manipulate the raw data; to the current 'New Golden Era', which has seen impressive achievements from a growing number of countries. These now include China, Japan, India and the UAE. The most recent mission discussed is Chang'e 5 launched in November 2020. 

There is a lot of information here, but it is always presented in a very readable way. The preface and appendices offer more basic information to those less familiar with imaging, as well as mission lists, furthered reading and a full index. As we are so spoiled for choice there will always be some disagreement about which images to include in such a book, but I found the balance between those of historic interest and pure eye candy about right. 

It certainly maintains the excellent reputation built up by the Springer-Praxis Space Exploration book series." 

Mark Bowyer, BBC Sky at Night Magazine May 2022.  

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Exploring the Ocean Worlds of Our Solar System

In the last 25 years, planetary science experienced a revolution, as vast oceans of liquid water have been discovered within the heart of the icy moons of our Solar System. These subsurface oceans lie hidden under thick layers of ice. We call them ocean worlds.


Some of these icy moons, such as Ganymede, may hold two to three times more liquid water than all the water present on Earth, while others, such as Enceladus and Europa, are thought by astrobiologists to be our best hope of finding extraterrestrial life.

 

With the contributions of leading planetary scientists from NASA, ESA, and other institutions, this book aims to be the go-to reference for anyone wanting to know more about this fascinating topic. ​

Review

"The title of this book could mislead because bodies that do have surface oceans (Earth) or did (Mars, perhaps Venus) get short shrift. Henin (Sherwood Observatory, UK) focuses instead on bodies in the outer solar system with thick layers of liquid water deep beneath their surfaces. In contrast, Zalasiewicz and Williams’s 2014 Ocean Worlds (CH, Jun'15, 52-5361) mainly explored Earth’s ocean, devoting little space to subsurface oceans. Henin is almost exclusively interested in
these subsurface oceans for their potential to host extraterrestrial microbes. After two introductory chapters, the longest chapter rapidly summarizes what constitutes life on Earth.

 

Each of the next five chapters concerns a moon known to have subterranean oceans; each gets a similar, primarily historical, treatment. He describes how each moon was discovered and how our understanding of it evolved through time. Three chapters then briefly review additional moons, asteroids, dwarf planets, etc., that may have subsurface oceans. The final chapter concerns future space missions to investigate them further. The illustrations and shortlist of suggested readings are both rather perfunctory. Although this book provides an up-to-the-minute overview of a very interesting topic, it may not be smooth reading for a novice.

 

Summing Up: Recommended. With the caveat above. General readers and Undergraduates."

--B. M. Simonson, emeritus, Oberlin College
 

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