With the discovery of Eris (2003 UB313)--an outer solar system object thought to be both slightly larger than Pluto and twice as far from the Sun--astronomers have again been thrown into an age-old debate about what is and what is not a planet. One of many sizeable hunks of rock and ice in the Kuiper Belt, Eris has resisted easy classification and inspired much controversy over the definition of planethood. But, Pluto itself has been subject to controversy since its discovery in 1930, and questions over its status linger. Is it a planet? What exactly is a planet?
Is Pluto a Planet? tells the story of how the meaning of the word "planet" has changed from antiquity to the present day, as new objects in our solar system have been discovered. In lively, thoroughly accessible prose, David Weintraub provides the historical, philosophical, and astronomical background that allows us to decide for ourselves whether Pluto is indeed a planet.
The number of possible planets has ranged widely over the centuries, from five to seventeen. This book makes sense of it all--from the ancient Greeks' observation that some stars wander while others don't; to Copernicus, who made Earth a planet but rejected the Sun and the Moon; to the discoveries of comets, Uranus, Ceres, the asteroid belt, Neptune, Pluto, centaurs, the Kuiper Belt and Eris, and extrasolar planets.
Weaving the history of our thinking about planets and cosmology into a single, remarkable story, Is Pluto a Planet? is for all those who seek a fuller understanding of the science surrounding both Pluto and the provocative recent discoveries in our outer solar system.
Filled with practical information for the amateur astronomer, this Sky Observer's Golden Guide explains:
-How to select and use binoculars and telescopes
-How to best observe stars, the moon, planets, comets, meteors, and other celestial objects
-How to use star charts
Profusely illustrated with photographs, diagrams, charts, and tables, this guide is recommended by leading astronomers.
Does life exist on Mars? The question has captivated humans for centuries, but today it has taken on new urgency. NASA plans to send astronauts to Mars orbit by the 2030s. SpaceX wants to go by 2024, while Mars One wants to land a permanent settlement there in 2032. As we gear up for missions like these, we have a responsibility to think deeply about what kinds of life may already inhabit the planet--and whether we have the right to invite ourselves in. This book tells the complete story of the quest to answer one of the most tantalizing questions in astronomy. But it is more than a history. Life on Mars explains what we need to know before we go.
David Weintraub tells why, of all the celestial bodies in our solar system, Mars has beckoned to us the most. He traces how our ideas about life on Mars have been refined by landers and rovers, terrestrial and Mars-orbiting telescopes, spectroscopy, and even a Martian meteorite. He explores how finding DNA-based life on the Red Planet could offer clues about our distant evolutionary past, and grapples with the profound moral and ethical questions confronting us as we prepare to introduce an unpredictable new life form—ourselves—into the Martian biosphere.
Life on Mars is also a book about how science is done—and undone—in the age of mass media. It shows how Mars mania has obscured our vision since we first turned our sights on the planet and encourages a healthy skepticism toward the media hype surrounding Mars as humanity prepares to venture forth.
The age of our universe poses a deceptively simple question, and its answer carries profound implications for science, religion, and philosophy. David Weintraub traces the centuries-old quest by astronomers to fathom the secrets of the nighttime sky. Describing the achievements of the visionaries whose discoveries collectively unveiled a fundamental mystery, he shows how many independent lines of inquiry and much painstakingly gathered evidence, when fitted together like pieces in a cosmic puzzle, led to the long-sought answer. Astronomers don't believe the universe is 13.7 billion years old--they know it. You will too after reading this book. By focusing on one of the most crucial questions about the universe and challenging readers to understand the answer, Weintraub familiarizes readers with the ideas and phenomena at the heart of modern astronomy, including red giants and white dwarfs, cepheid variable stars and supernovae, clusters of galaxies, gravitational lensing, dark matter, dark energy and the accelerating universe--and much more. Offering a unique historical approach to astronomy, How Old Is the Universe? sheds light on the inner workings of scientific inquiry and reveals how astronomers grapple with deep questions about the physical nature of our universe.
Knowing the answer as to whether humanity has company in the universe will trigger one of the greatest intellectual revolutions in history, not the least of which will be a challenge for at least some terrestrial religions. Which religions will handle the discovery of extraterrestrial life with ease and which will struggle to assimilate this new knowledge about our place in the universe? Some religions as currently practiced appear to only be viable on Earth. Other religions could be practiced on distant worlds but nevertheless identify both Earth as a place and humankind as a species of singular spiritual religious importance, while some religions could be practiced equally well anywhere in the universe by any sentient beings.
Weintraub guides readers on an invigorating tour of the world’s most widely practiced religions. It reveals what, if anything, each religion has to say about the possibility that extraterrestrial life exists and how, or if, a particular religion would work on other planets in distant parts of the universe.