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Book Reviews


Mars: A Cosmic Stepping Stone - Uncovering Humanity's Cosmic Context
Author: Kevin Nolan

Publisher: Springer

ISBN: 978-0-387-34164-4

Price: $27.50 (Hb), 379pp


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First impressions: if you want a digestible compendium of state-of-the-art Mars research, this is the book. However I feel poor editing detracts from an otherwise extremely accessible
volume in the 'new Mars' library. The author, based in Ireland, has an impressive space education background. There are always things to learn from any new book, as here: I didn't know that nineteenth century astronomer Schiaparelli was
colour-blind, for example.

One definition of history is anything that happened longer than five years ago. Kevin Nolan has set out his book roughly along these lines, with the 'meat' obviously the Mars Express and Spirit and Opportunity rover findings since 2004. That year marked Europe's probe entering orbit and the landing of both (ongoing) NASA vehicles. Later, more US missions followed and even the Phoenix polar lander's early results are mentioned.

There is an excellent selection of illustrations, although I feel perhaps a larger Mars map would help locate places mentioned throughout the text. The book covers some topics not addressed in detail by other recent Mars publications. There's reflection on the philosophy and ethics of planetary protection - with a nice explanation of the differing types of protection level required - and the author compares and contrasts ESA's
Aurora and NASA's Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) plans.


My main criticism of this book was its grammar and style. Something that continued to mildly irritate throughout was the constant splitting of infinitives! Not everyone accepts this trend in modern English, but once noticed, I found myself searching for and finding many. More generally, I'm not sure the checking of proofs was good in places, with noticeable errors slipping through; once conscious of these, you tend to seek others.


When discussing Martian mapping I think the author has become confused between topology (the study of networks) and topography (the study of surfaces) and I am surprised this wasn't picked up during editing. Also I cannot understand the author's use of the term 'enigmatic' when describing various spacecraft science instruments. Am I being a pedant? You be the judge, dear reader as the science content is excellent - and
bang up to date - even if the English isn't to my liking at times.

Malcolm Smith

2009 Yearbook
This 132-page special edition features the ultimate observing guide for 2009, a review of all the biggest news stories of 2008, in depth articles covering all aspects of astronomy and space missions for 2009, previews of International Year of Astronomy events and much, much more.
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Infinity Rising
This special publication features the photography of British astro-imager Nik Szymanek and covers a range of photographic methods from basic to advanced. Beautiful pictures of the night sky can be obtained with a simple camera and tripod before tackling more difficult projects, such as guided astrophotography through the telescope and CCD imaging.
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Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!
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Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
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