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Book Reviews


Incoming! Or, Why We Should Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Meteorite
Author: Ted Nield

Publisher: Granta Books

ISBN: 978-1-8470-8241-1

Price: £20 (Hb) 288pp


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I'm already a meteorite lover so when this book landed on my desk I wondered if I would learn anything new. I did.

The first section of Incoming! deals with the historical aspect of meteorites and how humankind's perception of these 'rocks from space' has evolved over time. For centuries, reports of falling stones were regarded as 'highly dubious', but by the end of the eighteenth century a number of observed falls across Europe – including England's famous Wold Cottage meteorite – and the subsequent scientific analysis of them, meant that an extraterrestrial origin was the only logical explanation. But it wasn't until the twentieth century that large rocks from space were linked to the formation of impact craters.

In one of the main themes of Incoming!, Nield presents controversial research that challenges the idea that the dinosaurs were wiped out in a single cataclysmic event and suggests that there are many other twists to the story yet to unravel. As Nield points out, life was already in the throes of being poisoned by the eruption of hundreds of thousands of cubic kilometres of lava and associated toxic gases during the formation of the Deccan Traps in India 65 million years ago. The infamous ten-kilometre wide 'asteroid of doom' merely accelerated the likely fate of the dinosaurs.

A second theme explores the unorthodox view that meteor strikes can in fact stimulate life, and that the greatest increase in biological diversity recorded in the geological record could be explained by an influx of meteoroids. As Earth is peppered with impact craters, localised populations may become diminished or even extinct, but other species are subsequently given the chance to flourish.

The Bill Bryson of the geological world, Nield's conversational tone makes geology accessible to everyone. Amusing anecdotes from his own geology research career adds a personal – and often humorous – touch, but there is plenty to digest for even the most die-hard of meteorite fans, too.

Emily Baldwin

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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