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Beyond Pluto: Exploring the Outer Limits of the Solar System

By: John Davies

246 pages, 17 line diagrams, 30 half-tones

Cambridge University Press

Hardback | Jul 2001 | #172601 | ISBN: 0521800196
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NHBS Price: £45.99 $61/€52 approx

About this book

In the last ten years, the solar system has more than doubled in size. For the first time in almost two centuries an entirely new population of planetary objects has been found. This 'Kuiper Belt' of minor planets beyond Neptune has revolutionised our understanding of how the solar system was formed and has finally explained the origin of the enigmatic outer planet Pluto. This is the fascinating story of how theoretical physicists decided that there must be a population of unknown bodies beyond Neptune and how a small band of astronomers set out to find them. What they discovered was a family of ancient planetesimals whose orbits and physical properties were far more complicated than anyone expected. We follow the story of this discovery, and see how astronomers, theoretical physicists and one incredibly dedicated amateur observer have come together to explore the frozen boundary of the solar system.

'! a pleasing book with an elegant style !'. Astronomy & Geophysics 'Beyond Pluto is a candid, detailed and well illustrated book that takes the general reader on an intriguing journey to the far frontiers of astronomical research.' David Hughes, New Scientist '! a must for comet enthusiasts and armchair astronomers wishing to gain a sense of what the outermost provinces of the Sun's dominion may be like.' Neil English, Astronomy Now '! there is something here for everyone. For the non-professional, Davies discusses the tools and art of astronomical research in a practical manner ! For the expert and research astronomer, this account provides context for the ongoing work in the field as well as an excellent overview of the driving questions and current state of knowledge ! it is a pleasure to have a book that is readable at so many levels and able to describe the concepts and relevance of such a new field of research.' Joel Wm. Parker, Nature '! an overview of a rapidly developing research that is accessible to the non-specialist and as such is particularly welcome. Anyone interested in solar system studies and the formation and evolution of the planets will want to buy this book.' Richard Taylor, Spaceflight 'A modern story of scientific discovery, showing how theory and practice interact.' Europe & Astronomy 'The book gives an accessible account of the historical context of research into objects beyond Pluto. ! what brings the book to life is the fascinating insight Davies gives into the nomadic existence of young professional astronomers, the excitement of observations which confirm orbital predictions, the frustration of having not quite enough clout to get crucial telescope time, and the ingenious ways of making the most of what resources they do get. ! Anyone wanting an insider's account of this continuing voyage of discovery should read Davies' book. Thoroughly recommended.' Newsletter of the Federation of Astronomical Societies '! an immensely enjoyable read.' Simon Green, The Observatory


Prologue; 1. Towards the edge of the solar system; 2. The centaurs; 3. The mystery of the short period comets; 4. Shooting in the dark; 5. Deeper and deeper; 6. Sorting out the dynamics; 7. What are little planets made of?; 8. Numbers and sizes; 9. Things that go bump in the dark; 10. Dust and disks; 11. Where do we go from here?; 12. Will we ever get our names right? Appendix; Index.

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John Davies is an astronomer at the Joint Astronomy Centre in Hilo, Hawaii. His research focuses on small solar system objects. In 1983 he discovered six new comets with the Infrared Astronomy Satellite (IRAS) and since then he has studied numerous comets and asteroids with ground and space based telescopes.

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