Worlds in the Sky: Planetary Discovery From the Earliest Times through Voyager & Magellan

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9780816512904: Worlds in the Sky: Planetary Discovery From the Earliest Times through Voyager & Magellan

Ever since early star-gazers discovered that some heavenly bodies wandered among the others, people have been fascinated by the planets. Kepler calculated their orbits from naked-eye observations; Galileo's telescope made it possible to discern their markings; now observations from spacecraft provide electronically enhanced images that bring these distant worlds even closer.In Worlds in the Sky, William Sheehan gives us a history of this long fascination, weaving together scientific history, anecdotes surrounding planetary discoveries, and the personal reflections of an incurable amateur astronomer. He describes how we arrived at our current understanding of the Moon and the planets and shows how certain individuals in history shaped the world's knowledge about the Solar System.Placing historical observations in the context of recent discoveries, Sheehan questions whether these telescopic glimpses were revelations or mere deceptions. By reflecting on the mental processes of early astronomers, he provides not only a fascinating account of scientific discovery but also a tribute to those who, long before Voyager, relied on their own powers of observation to travel to worlds in the sky.

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From Publishers Weekly:

This informative tour of our solar system describes "where we are now in our understanding of the planets and something of how we got here." After setting the stage with the development of telescopes and rockets and their use in space exploration, Sheehan ( Planets and Perception ) considers in turn the Earth's moon, each planet, the asteroid belt (the "missing planet" between Mars and Jupiter whose existence was indicated by a mathematical formula102 ), comets and meteors. The chapter on Venus, for example, takes us from the discovery of the planet's phasesp. 67 by Galileo to 19th-century speculation that it was Earth's "near-identical twin" and recent findings that the planet rotates in an opposite direction to the Earth and that its desolate surface is hotter than Mercury's. These histories of discovery are sprinkled with occasional suggestions on spotting specific bodies, such as the Saturnian satellite Hyperion ("at magnitude 14 it can just be captured in a 10-inch reflector"). Effectively blending the human quest for knowledge of the heavens with a few spurs to go out and try it oneself, this work should score well with dedicated amateur astronomers. Illustrations. Astronomy Book Club main selection.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

At a time when all but one of the solar system's planets have been visited by spacecraft, this primer provides a welcome summation of our newfound understanding of our neighboring worlds. Sheehan traces humanity's historical astronomical curiosity from the earliest stargazers to the invention of the telescope through today's spacecraft discoveries. He provides detailed portraits of each planet, their moons, and the "debris" of the solar system: the asteroids, meteors, and comets. Going beyond the raw data, Sheehan places in a historical context the evolution of humanity's understanding of these other worlds and of Earth's place in the cosmos. Libraries with similar surveys such as The New Solar System (Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1990. 3d ed.) may wish to update their subject collections with this well-done addition. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
- Thomas J. Frieling, Bainbridge Coll., Ga.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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