Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
on 14 February 2011
Professor Barrie Jones is one of the UK's leading experts on the Solar System and so is ideally qualified to write about, not just Pluto as a planet, but also its place in the outer Solar System. This beautifully printed book does not disappoint. Following an introduction to the solar system there is a fascinating account of the discovery of the outer planets of the Solar System and the early attempts to find another planet beyond Neptune. We learn how Clyde Tombaugh was employed by the Lowell Observatory to search unsuccessfully for "Planet X" whose location in the sky had been predicted by Percival Lowell. He then carried his own search along the plane of the ecliptic and, in 1930, discovered the planet that became known as Pluto. Professor Jones then tells how, since then, we have learnt much about Pluto and how in 1978, James Christy discovered Pluto's moon Charon which enabled the first accurate mass for Pluto to be determined - just 0.2% that of the Earth! Problems for its status a planet began when objects of similar and, finally, one (Eris) of slightly larger size were discovered. Should these objects be given the status of a planet, or should Pluto be demoted? We are told of the heated discussions that took place at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) leading up to resolution, passed at the 2006 IAU General Assembly in Prague, that gave Pluto the status of a "Dwarf Planet" along with the newly discovered Kuiper belt Object, Eris, and Ceres, the largest of the Minor Planets. Finally, the book looks forwards to the New Horizons mission to Pluto, planned to flyby Pluto on the 14th July 2015 - perhaps Professor Jones will then be able to add another chapter to this excellent book!
Ian Morison, Gresham Professor of Astronomy.