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The Hunt for Planet X: New Worlds and the Fate of Pluto Hardcover – 28 Nov 2008


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 281 pages
  • Publisher: Copernicus; 2009 edition (28 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0387778047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0387778044
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.1 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,277,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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From the reviews:

"The Hunt for Planet X is a fascinating tale by one of the world's premier astronomy writers. Govert Schilling is not only scrupulously accurate, he writes beautifully as well." (Stephen P. Maran, Author of Astronomy for Dummies and Press Officer, American Astronomical Society)

"The Hunt for Planet X is an adventure story or, more accurately, a series of adventure stories. Schilling tells them well, capturing both the science and the people involved. It starts with the classics: Uranus, Neptune and Pluto; and moves all over the solar system as ground-based astronomers and space scientists pour over measurements and observations to try to understand the worlds around us. Current debates about the Pioneer Anomaly and the definition of what is a planet make the book current as well as a good history." (Dr. Louis Friedman, Executive Director, The Planetary Society)

"This exciting tale of the centuries-old search for new planets in the solar system reads like a thriller. It is an adventure packed with fierce competition, brilliant discoveries, dumb errors, lucky coincidences and artful intrigue – in short, the full spectrum of the human drama. The story reaches an exciting climax in 2006, when we lost Pluto as a planet but gained a number of ice dwarfs in return. This colorful account chock-full of fascinating details is an excellent metaphor for the great adventure of science." (Robbert Dijkgraaf, Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Amsterdam)

"The story of the discovery of Pluto and its fellow Kuiper belt objects is told here by science writer and New Scientist contributor Govert Schilling. He travelled the world to interview all the surviving protagonists, including Venetia Burney - the 11-year-old who suggested the name Pluto - and the band of dogged planet hunters who have found such bodies as Eris, Easter Bunny, Buffy and Santa (with its moons Rudolph and Blixen). And the search for Planet X is still on… This is a wonderfully entertaining book which conveys the raw excitement of a fast-developing field. I can't wait to find what else is out there." (Marcus Chown, New Scientist, 28 January 2009)

"Schilling's journey takes readers on a wild ride through teh solar system, skillfully shedding light on various fascinating subjects along the way. He handily explains techniques, planetary anomalies and discovery histories in a style that will be easily digestible for non-scientists... Schilling also presents fascinating insights into the characters of astronomers who have explored the solar system, from the prickly personalities of some of the brightest stars -- like Gerard Kuiper, for whom Pluto's neighborhood is named -- to the sweetness of now-famous astronomers as young children, who stared at the stars and dreamed of being astronauts... All in all, The Hunt for Planet X is a delightful detective story that presents the history of solar system research -- including the most recent, and explosive developments -- in a meaningful and colorful way..." (Anne Minard, author of Pluto and Beyond, Arizona Daily Sun, 08 February 2009)

"In an interesting and understandable format, Schilling adeptly relays information that could conceivably sail as far over the average reader’s head as the moon. Each chapter is a stand-alone essay; arranged along a chronological time frame, they combine to tell the story of celestial discoveries in short, entertaining bites... If you like astronomy, and people, and good story telling, this book hits the trifecta." (Ruth Douillette, The Internet Review of Books, March 2009)

"This is one of the most detailed books about the Solar System, its history, and the neighborhood at and around our Sun. … The book is very well illustrated throughout, with some wonderful pictures … . anyone really interested in Pluto and in understanding our Solar System in general, this book contains all the latest, up-to-date scientific information … . Overall, to anyone interested in learning about … our Solar System and the stories of their discovery, The Hunt For Planet X is for you." (Starts With a Bang, March, 2009)

"It is a book about how our solar system came to be, how astronomers and planetary scientists go about discovering the next new planet. … Overall … Govert Schilling did a great job of bringing the solar system to the masses in well written easy to understand shorts packed full of adventure and intrigue." (Bob Johnson, Blackholes and Astrostuff, March, 2009)

"Schilling covers everything from the days when planets, moons, and other galactic objects were first discovered … . The Hunt For Planet X is a great resource for any … person looking for answers about our solar system, what exactly people are looking for up there in the great blackness of space, and how they’re finding it. It is an invaluable reference for those wanting either quick answer or long discussions on the mysteries of space." (Alex Telander, BookLoons, April, 2009)

"Govert Schilling’s new book … tell the story of the Solar System’s outermost bodies. … Accessible to beginners, friendly to non-scientists and rewarding to those with an astronomical background, if there is one book that you read about the outer reaches of the Solar System … it is this one." (Keith Cooper, Astronomy Now, April, 2009)

"The book not only gives the history of the exploration of the outer solar system, but it includes vignettes of Schilling’s visits to almost all of the astronomers currently active in the field. … finally I have a book to hand people not just when they ask about Pluto, but when they ask me whether or not I think the world is going to end in 2012 because of a close encounter with the rouge planet." (Mike Brown's Planets, July, 2009)

"The book covers the history of discovery in the Solar System from Uranus up to very recent years. … is well illustrated in colour, with pictures located in the relevant sections of the text. At the end is a helpful table with data on large ice dwarfs. I found it particularly useful to correlate the official IAU names with some of the jocular names given by astronomers to their discoveries. … a good introduction to the history of Solar System discovery, particularly in recent years." (Mark Hurn, The Observatory, Vol. 129 (1211), August, 2009)

"Each lively chapter begins with a focus on an individual, often revealing something of his/her personal life as well as the scientific quest. … The illustrations are excellent, as is the translation from the original Dutch. A chronology of discoveries and a glossary are nice additions to a book that provides clear explanations for the science involved, as well as an enjoyable reading experience. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers and interested lower- and upper-division undergraduates." (M.-K. Hemenway, Choice, Vol. 46 (10), June, 2009)

From the Back Cover

"The Hunt for Planet X is a fascinating tale by one of the world's premier astronomy writers. Govert Schilling is not only scrupulously accurate, he writes beautifully as well."
Stephen P. Maran, Author of "Astronomy for Dummies" and Press Officer, American Astronomical Society

"The Hunt for Planet X is an adventure story or, more accurately, a series of adventure stories. Schilling tells them well, capturing both the science and the people involved. It starts with the classics: Uranus, Neptune and Pluto; and moves all over the solar system as ground-based astronomers and space scientists pour over measurements and observations to try to understand the worlds around us. Current debates about the Pioneer Anomaly and the definition of what is a planet make the book current as well as a good history."
Dr. Louis Friedman, Executive Director, The Planetary Society

"This exciting tale of the centuries-old search for new planets in the solar system reads like a thriller. It is an adventure packed with fierce competition, brilliant discoveries, dumb errors, lucky coincidences and artful intrigue – in short, the full spectrum of the human drama. The story reaches an exciting climax in 2006, when we lost Pluto as a planet but gained a number of ice dwarfs in return. This colorful account chock-full of fascinating details is an excellent metaphor for the great adventure of science."
Robbert Dijkgraaf, Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Amsterdam

 

The Hunt for Planet X: New Worlds and the Fate of Pluto goes beyond a standard scientific read, encompassing who, and what, is involved in the pursuit of planetary endeavors. Touching on over three-hundred years of debates, debacles and discoveries, this book offers the reader insight into the minds and motives of planetary astronomers and their findings. The "hunt" continues to the outer-most regions of the solar system, and Govert Schilling states this search will not cease: "Astronomy is an adventurous science," he writes, and without adventure and those who seek it out the universe would otherwise remain mysterious. The real-life characters presented in The Hunt for Planet X look for glimpses of light in the dark, from icy Kuiper Belt objects to full-fledged planets, in the process challenging how such worlds should be defined and ultimately describing the Universe.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rosey Lea TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Jan 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book charts the ongoing search for Planet X (the mystery planet in our solar system that science proves exists, just can't physically find!), and within that search the story of Pluto's discovery and dethronement.

It's a fascinating read, with the excitement of discovery and adventure permeating from the pages. The few basic astronomy concepts raised are explained so clearly and concisely that they're very easy to grasp, and don't hinder the journey in anyway.

The layout of the book is also lovely. Clear type, many colour photos, and heavy glossy paper. It's a joy to hold as well as read.

Easily one of the best `accessible' science/astronomy books I've ever read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Methuslah on 19 Aug 2011
Format: Hardcover
'The Hunt for Planet X' was the book that made my interest in KBOs move from 'passing' to 'extensive'. The title itself is a little more limited than the actual book; the book its more of a history of the highlights of Solar System discoveries over the last two centuries. It begins with the discovery of Uranus, and the unfortunate effect that had on the builder of a Dutch orrery. (Read the book. It would take me too long to explain.) The controversial discovery of Neptune is covered, and the discovery of Pluto. Although these sections are well written, they aren't really anything that hasn't been covered before.

Where this book shines is where it goes beyond this. The discoveries of Pluto's second and third moons, Nix and Hydra, are covered in detail, and the thus far failed search for 'vulcanoid' asteroids, within the orbit of Mercury. Then the exploration of the Kuiper Belt truly begins, from the discovery of Quaoar to that of Eris and Dysnomia, a body bigger than Pluto; which finally brought to a head the decision to limit the Solar System to eight 'planets'.

This is an excellent general overview of the Outer Solar System for the layman. (Which includes me, so I'm happy!) The writer, Govert Schilling, manages to involve the reader in the ongoing narrative of discovery, as well as the all too human rivalries and controversies that ensued. The book is a gripping and engaging tale, as all good histories should be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Philip Corneille on 11 Sep 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dutch science journalist Govert Schilling has created (yet another) superb book on astronomy.
The hunt for planet X is a detailed overview of the discoveries and events that lead to the demotion of Pluto as a planet. Since August 2006, Pluto is a dwarf planet.
The story starts with the discoveries of the gas giants Uranus (1781), the first asteroids (1801) and Neptune (1846). The search by Percival Lowell and Vesto Slipher to find the tenth planet, which was finally discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. The story continues with the discoveries of Pluto's moons, the first large Kuiper Belt Object (1992) and Eris (2005), an icy world which is larger then Pluto and orbits our Sun every 557 years. Towards the end the book looks forward to the New Horizons mission, which will flyby Pluto-Charon in July 2015.
As science is practiced by people, the book provides a view behind the scenes of the life of astronomers, illustrated with superb color photos courtesy of many scientists such as John Anderson, Mike Brown, Marc Buie, Robin Canup, Jim Christy, Charles Kowal, Max Mutchler, David Rabinowitz, Chad Trujillo, Alan Stern, etc...
The quality of the book with glossy pages is superb, reads as a detective story and it's probably the best accessible astronomical science book of the First decade of this 21st century!

Philip Corneille
Belgium/Croatia
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By J. Livsey on 16 Aug 2010
Format: Hardcover
Best book I have ever read. Well. If you are interested in the history of how and when the minor planets beyond Saturn were discovered, then this is an unmissable book. Very well written. I took it on holiday with me and struggled to read it slowly, to make it last.

The book starts with the people in the 1800s who were discovering the rocks that made up the missing planet between Mars and Jupiter. Then goes on to discuss the more recent discoveries of orbiting lumps of ice and rock in the general area of Pluto, the Kuiper belt. This book talks about the competing teams who were racing to confirm new objects and their orbits. The hunt continues today, though the book concludes with the new generation of large telescopes that will be able to look further and in more detail than the planet hunters of even thirty years ago could have imagined.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A fascinating read for anyone who loves astronomy 16 May 2009
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Much to the controversy of many, Pluto is no longer a planet by scientific definition. "The Hunt for Planet X: New Worlds and the Fate of Pluto" is a look into the outer reaches of our solar systems and the things that clasp to the outer reaches of the solar system. Chronicling the debates that have been raging for centuries about what lies beyond Neptune, "The Hunt for Planet X" is a real life mystery that many of today's scientists have dedicated themselves to solving, but the mystery may be up to future generations to solve. "The Hunt for Planet X: New Worlds and the Fate of Pluto" is a fascinating read for anyone who loves astronomy.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An excellent book for lovers of astronomy 3 Oct 2009
By S V SWAMY - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is an excellent, highly readable account of the discovery of trans-Saturnian Planets of our Solar System, especially Pluto and the Planet X. X stands for ten as well as unknown. When Pluto was discovered in 1930, it was not the tenth planet but was the mysterious unknown planet that was theorized to exist based on the orbital fluctuations of Uranus (Neptune was discovered earlier but even after taking into account its effects, Uranus had orbital fluctuations suggesting the existence of one or more planets beyond). Later observations showed that Pluto was not alone but was a member of a group of bodies collectively named Kuiper Belt. In 2006, Pluto was demoted as a regular Planet, in the face of opposition from many astronomers. You should read the book to know more about all the debate and the factors that weighed with the astronomers.

The science and the human drama (the fierce competition, the national pride, the hunger for credit etc.) have been nicely brought out by Govert and the illustrations and photographs add a lot of value to the book.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book strongly to all lovers of science in general and astronomy in particular.

Govert Schilling is an internationally acclaimed freelance writer on astronomy from Netherlands.

The reviewer is a physicist and a metallurgist, with interests in astronomy and other sciences. He is an author and editor besides being an avid reader and reviewer of books.
A rational book about Planet X 3 Jan 2013
By Captain Video - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In the middle of all the irrational nonesense that has been written about how a Planet X or Nibiru was supposed to appear on December 21 and cause great destruction, it is a real pleasure to see a scientifically sound book about the real search for a Planet X by astronomers that led to the seredipedous discovery of the dwarf planet Pluto.
Love this book! 11 Jun 2012
By Marguerite Abaddonais - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Govert Schilling is one of the best authors (in my opinion) on astronomy. He's written a ton of books but unfortunately only a few are in English. This is one of them. He goes through the background behind some of the most interesting astronomical stories; Chiron, Neptune, Uranus, Pluto, Charon, Nix, Hydra, Plutoids/TNOs (although for a really great book on Pluto and other way out there dwarf planets, I recommend How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming). Schilling even goes through some crazier theories (like the Zetas) that stemmed from far more rational ones (the Nemesis theory).

I couldn't put the book down. I checked it out from the library and now I've bought it on Amazon because I honestly want to be able to read parts of it when I'm in the mood for a good astronomy story. It's just an awesome book.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"Hunt for Planet X" 1 Nov 2010
By Alex C. Telander - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Dutch author Govert Schilling is an internationally acclaimed astronomy writer who has published more than forty books and written for many publications, including New Scientist and Science; he even has an asteroid - 10986 - named after him. In The Hunt for Planet X, he answers just about every question you might have about our solar system, from why Pluto was demoted from being a planet, to who discovered which planet, when, and how.

In a volume divided into thirty chapters, Schilling covers it all, from the days when planets, moons, and other galactic objects were first discovered - giving a brief history lesson on each person and how they discovered said object - up to the present with why Pluto isn't a planet any more, to what's being discovered right now, and what the future holds for astronomy. The book is filled with glossy photos of the important people in astronomy, as well as the planets, asteroids, and whatever else Schilling is talking about. There's even a helpful index and extensive chronology in the back of the book, starting with Galileo, taking readers on a quick journey through time up to 2007.

The Hunt For Planet X is a great resource for any (scientifically minded or not) person looking for answers about our solar system, what exactly people are looking for up there in the great blackness of space, and how they're finding it. It's an invaluable reference for those wanting either quick answers or long discussions on the mysteries of space.

Originally written on March 27th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

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