Destiny or Chance: Our Solar System and its Place in the Cosmos / Edition 1

Destiny or Chance: Our Solar System and its Place in the Cosmos / Edition 1

by Stuart Ross Taylor, Cambridge Univ Prtrade Sigs Books
     
 

ISBN-10: 0521481783

ISBN-13: 9780521481786

Pub. Date: 09/28/1998

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Written by a leading planetary scientist, this book tells the remarkable story of how our solar system came into existence. It provides a fast-paced and expert tour of our new understanding of the Earth, its planetary neighbours and other planetary systems.

In a whirl-wind adventure, we are shown how the formation of mightly Jupiter dominated the solar system, why

Overview

Written by a leading planetary scientist, this book tells the remarkable story of how our solar system came into existence. It provides a fast-paced and expert tour of our new understanding of the Earth, its planetary neighbours and other planetary systems.

In a whirl-wind adventure, we are shown how the formation of mightly Jupiter dominated the solar system, why Mars is so small, where comets come from, how rings form around planets, why asteroids exist and why Pluto isn't a planet at all. En route we discover that chance events have shaped the course of the history of our solar system. Dramatic collisions, for example, have caused the tilts and spins of the planets, the extinction of the dinosaurs and the rise of man. Finally, we look at how suitable Earth is for harbouring life, what other planetary systems look like and whether we are alone in the cosmos.

For all those interested in understanding our solar system and its place in the cosmos, this is a lucid and compelling read.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780521481786
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press
Publication date:
09/28/1998
Pages:
229
Product dimensions:
5.98(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.75(d)

Table of Contents

Prologuexi
Acknowledgementsxvii
Time linexix
1Setting the stage1
The place of the solar system in the universe2
The view before Copernicus2
The Copernican revolution3
Laplace and his followers14
The extent of the universe16
Galaxies20
Is the universe uniform?22
The expansion of the universe23
The age of the universe24
How did the universe begin?26
The darkness of the night sky28
Stars and the Sun29
A common or garden star29
Stars and planets: what is the difference?30
Single and double stars32
Building stars33
The fate of the Sun36
Red dwarfs, brown dwarfs and possible tiny relatives36
Disks around stars38
The disk around the Sun39
Laplace and his solar nebula39
In the beginning41
How big a disk?42
A short life43
Was the disk hot or cold?43
Before the solar system44
What was the disk made of?45
Was the disk uniform?47
The sweepout of gas48
Building planets49
The collapse of clockwork solar systems49
The problem50
Three types of planets52
Giant puffballs53
Did our planets accumulate from dust?54
The first solid bodies56
The most ancient samples57
The building blocks59
Formation of the planets60
The size of the solar system62
The long term stability of the solar system63
2The giants65
The yellow and orange gas giants65
Early perceptions65
Difficulties in forming the gas giants66
How to uild Jupiter early enough: blizzards in the nebula67
The limits to growth69
Some internal problems69
Are Jupiters common or useful?70
The green and blue ice giants71
The triumph of the Newtonian system71
Differences among the giants72
Origin of the ice giants73
The difference inside74
Tilts and giant collisions74
The outer edge of the planets76
Satellites of the giant planets76
Miniature solar systems?76
The startling diversity77
The Galilean satellites of Jupiter80
The satellites of Saturn83
The satellites of Uranus and Neptune85
The cosmic junkyard87
How are satellites made?88
3Escapees and survivors91
Comets91
Ghostly apparitions91
A disk of comets91
A spherical cloud of comets94
Comet Halley95
Comets from outside the solar system?96
Are comets primitive samples of the solar nebula?97
How do comets form?98
The ice dwarfs and the centaurs99
The ninth planet?99
The strange case of Pluto and Charon100
The origin of Pluto100
The capture of Triton101
A herd of centaurs103
Planetary rings104
An early puzzle104
Primitive survivors?105
The Lord of the Rings105
Thinner and darker versions107
The origin of the rings108
A passing scene110
The asteroids111
The vermin of the sky111
A great multitude112
The source of meteorites114
Classes of asteroids115
Families of asteroids115
A zoo or a wilderness area?116
Origin of the asteroids116
Other asteroid belts?117
Mars118
The red planet118
Deserts of vast eternity119
A divided planet120
A crust of lava121
A large bulge122
An early wet Mars?123
Catastrophic floods125
A survivor126
4The twins127
Venus127
The evening star127
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde127
A one plate planet129
The crust of Venus130
Fresh craters on Venus131
The youthful face of the goddess132
Water on Venus?133
A close relative of the Earth?134
The Earth134
An island entire of itself134
The composition of the Earth135
The accumulation of the Earth138
Adding icing to the cake139
Crusts140
The turbulent history of the atmosphere142
The scarcity of the water142
Is the Earth alive?143
5Two special cases147
The Moon147
An eccentric individual147
Rosetta Stones148
A thick crust150
Inside the Moon153
The composition of the Moon153
Life on the Moon153
Evolution of the Moon154
Lunar craters155
The origin of the Moon157
A large impact on the Earth158
The effect of the Moon on the Earth161
Mercury161
A red herring161
Too much iron, too little rock163
An unexpected magnetic field163
An unusual orbit164
The barren plains of Mercury164
A shrunken planet165
A collisional origin for Mercury166
6Causes and effects169
The collisions of asteroids and comets with planets169
An untidy system169
The tilts and spins of the planets170
A universal bombardment171
The early intense bombardment173
Great big basins174
Addition and subtraction of atmosphere and oceans175
Earth and Moon: the continuing bombardment176
The extinction of the dinosaurs178
A closer call: the end of the trilobites181
Extinctions at regular intervals?182
Life and the anthropic principle183
The Earth as an abode for life183
The origin of life187
On the development of intelligent life190
Life on Mars?192
Was the universe designed for us?195
The anthropic principle198
The antidote to the anthropic principle: chance events?201
Is there a purpose?202
The unique nature of the solar system205
On the purpose of this enquiry205
The accidental nature of the solar system: is it unique?205
What do other planetary systems look like?207
Attempts to find a general theory to build planets211
The end of the solar system213
Notes217
Index222

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