Saturday, 9 April 2011

Planets: a very short introduction – David A. Rothery ***

Like any other pocket summary, David Rothery’s Planets – a very short introduction is limited by the format. The book never goes into excessive detail, but it is surprisingly comprehensive and though sometimes quite dry, it is readable throughout.
To give a feel for the way the author brings a little life into what could be a dull collection of facts, consider this extract: visualize a pock-marked potato scaled up to any size between tens of metres and a few hundred kilometres, and you should have a serviceable mental image of a typical asteroid… Generally, rotation is at right angles to their length, so they rotate like sausages twirled on a cocktail stick.
Rothery takes an appropriately balanced view on the demotion of Pluto to a minor planet. He leads us on a quite detailed tour of each of the planets and their moons, throwing in some bonus material on asteroids, comets and exoplanets.
This kind of pocket guide is never going to set the world in fire, but it does an excellent job of introducing the planets within the limitation of the format. It would be great for a young astronomer or for anyone who just wants to know quite a lot more about the Sun’s satellites.
Paperback:  
Review by Brian Clegg

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