Book Review: Distant Worlds

Combine some dust together into a clump and you get a dust ball. Bring enough dust close together and a solar system ensues. Distant Worlds – Milestones in Planetary Explorations is a book by Peter Bond that describes our solar system. As he shows, we’re amongst much more exciting things than a cloud of dust.

The subtitle of Bond’s Book is more apt than the title in describing the contents. Within, Bond offers details on the results of explorations, planet by planet. As normal, the book begins with a chapter on Mercury. Then, chapter by chapter, the book steps planet by planet onward until it ends at the Kuiper belt. A couple of extra chapters include the Earth’s moon and comets so that the chapter count rises to twelve.

These twelve do a credible job of being extensive and thorough in their descriptions. Their layout is quite prescriptive. Each chapter has a prologue containing a brief overview of the planet (or other object) as understood through history. Next, the chapter has the results of probes we sent to visit. Occasionally, there’s also a brief bio of the probe as well. The conclusion of the chapter, if any, raises the hopes of future probes, if any.

Though detailed, the book and its chapters leave very little to the imagination. That is, tere’s little within with which to get excited. Equally there’s little to disparage. Bond is thorough, provides lots of facts and data, includes enough word-smithing to join everything, and, includes pictures and photographs to make it pretty. The layout is clear, the contents follows an obvious pattern and the appendices and index give the necessary pointers. As such, it’s a great reference book. However, while reading, I was unconsciously forming questions for a grade school test. It’s that sort of book. It would excel as a reference, it would be very poor for sitting down and reading on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Nevertheless, being current (with references to launches happening later in 2006) and detailed makes this book a good reference. A lovely picture of Amathea and a stately portrait of Herschel add flavour. Ballooning to the Venusian surface or landing a probe on Churyumov-Gerasimenko puts the reader close to the action. But, unless very dedicated, the book won’t likely draw a reader in to learn, page by page, of the milestones in our exploration of the planets of our solar system.

The worlds of our solar system began humbly as motes of dust on the arm of our galaxy. After tens of years of exploring with robotic surrogates, we’ve learned much about these worlds. Peter Bond in his book Distant Worlds – Milestones in Planetary Explorations offers readers much data and facts resulting from these missions. He well shows the steadily increasing plethora of facts and knowledge with each new discovery.

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