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Book Reviews


Drifting on Alien Worlds: Exploring the Skies and Weather of Other Worlds

Author: Michael Carroll

Publisher: Springer

ISBN:978-1-4419-6916-3

Price: £35.99 (Hb) 238pp


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The oceans of air that planets and even some moons in our Solar System possess are fascinating realms to which this book really does justice. The dynamics, structures and cycles of Earth’s turbulent atmosphere and those of other worlds are fully explored along with atmospheric phenomena and instabilities that give these masses of gas their charm and beauty. Far from simply cloud watching, Drifting on Alien Worlds covers the exploration of our own atmosphere through flight and those of other worlds by means of spectroscopy and direct exploration through spacecraft.

One high point in this exploration was the descent down through Venus’ thick atmosphere by the Soviet Venera landers and these missions are excellently described and illustrated by stunning reprocessed images of the harsh surface under the heavy clouds above.

Aside from being a journalist and writer, Michael Carroll is a well-known artist and as such there are many beautiful pieces of artwork by the author. This visual treat continues with the large amount of colour images and illustrations.

Text boxes are on hand to give further relevant information and there is also a great deal of input from people directly involved in the study of the atmospheres. One fascinating fact that springs to mind is that if you stood on Mars then because of the atmosphere’s weak convection, the air at your head could feel 20 degrees Celsius colder that at your feet!

The book is far from dominated by Venus and Mars; an overview is given of all the bodies that hold an atmosphere and then in turn a more detailed look is given to all these worlds; from the thin veil of gas around Neptune’s moon Triton to the impossible depths of Jupiter’s gassy envelope. The possible ways in which these distant skies may one day be explored is then fully investigated, with the tantalising notion of airships drifting amidst alien clouds.

David Powell

 

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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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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