I'd read this author's great little piece of non-fiction on the discovery of navigation's Longitude and the life of the astronomer in Galileo's Daughter. I really enjoyed this book that tells the story of each of the nine planets in our solar system as well as the Sun and Moon, that we learned about in school.
For each chapter covering each body, she weaves in history, myth, evolution, discovery and space exploration facts that effortlessly portray the key distinguishing qualities of each one. Her prose is never dry or boring:
[When describing Mercury's day] "...any given locale waits half a Mercurian year (about six Earth-weeks) after sunup for the full light of high noon. Dusk finally descends at year's end. And once the long night commences, another Mercurian year must pass before the Sun rises again. Thus the years hurry by, while the days drag on forever [literally!].
She notes at one point, "The far side of the Moon is the one place in the whole Solar System deaf to Earth's radio noise". Facts like that strike my imagination in the same way it has song and science fiction writers.
Note, the author is female, her first name is Dava, it's not a typo. I'll note to, there's a lot of new vocabulary to explore: ansa, extremophiles, oubliettes, vespertide and photosphere, as just a sample.
I came away with a pleasant and fondly remembered lesson in the universe we're found in and its major inhabitants.
Published: 2005 Read: December 2014 Genre: Science, Non-fiction
vocabulary: vespertide, oubliettes, syzygy, extremophiles, ansa