and new fatherhood. Mike Brown's delightful memoir/science lesson chronicles the few years where, in short order, he found - with the help of others - a possible tenth planet, became a husband and father, and finally, watched his dream of discovering a planet disappear as he argued that Pluto should be stricken from the litany of planets. Lots of "stuff" happening in a few short years, and Brown writes well about topics both personal and professional.
Brown, the son of a rocket-man, grew up in Huntsville, Alabama. Always interested in science in general, and astronomy in particular,he earned his PH.d and was hired by Caltech in Pasadena. For many years he was the proverbial free academic spirit who taught and looked at the sky, night after night, always savoring the dark nights of the moon's orbit. Between teaching and researching, he spent a lot of time searching the skies using telescopes in world-wide locations, trying to find "the tenth planet". In the early 2000's he meets a woman, falls in love, marries, and produces a child - a girl called Lilah. But during those years, he also produced two or three "maybe planets" - out past Neptune, close to the Kuiper Belt. Were they planets? What's the definition of a planet? Did the three "masses" he finds after years of patient searching deserve the title of "planet"? And, while we're at it, does the ninth planet, Pluto, deserve the title "planet"? After a few years, and Brown's contribution to the astronomical academic circles, certain determinations on the definition of "planet" are decided, and are a bittersweet accompaniment to Mike Brown's life.
Brown's combination of the personal and the professional parts of his life are told well in his book. He writes about science so well that even a science-dolt like me could understand MOST of what he writes about. That's a success in itself. It's a good read, not too long and not too heavy. Enjoy.