Shoemaker by Levy: The Man Who Made an Impact

Shoemaker by Levy: The Man Who Made an Impact

by David H. Levy
     
 

ISBN-10: 0691113254

ISBN-13: 9780691113258

Pub. Date: 11/04/2002

Publisher: Princeton University Press

It was a lucky twist of fate when in the early1980s David Levy, a writer and amateur astronomer, joined up with the famous scientist Eugene Shoemaker and his wife, Carolyn, to search for comets from an observation post on Palomar Mountain in Southern California. Their collaboration would lead to the 1993 discovery of the most remarkable comet ever recorded,

…  See more details below

Overview

It was a lucky twist of fate when in the early1980s David Levy, a writer and amateur astronomer, joined up with the famous scientist Eugene Shoemaker and his wife, Carolyn, to search for comets from an observation post on Palomar Mountain in Southern California. Their collaboration would lead to the 1993 discovery of the most remarkable comet ever recorded, Shoemaker-Levy 9, with its several nuclei, five tails, and two sheets of debris spread out in its orbit plane. A year later, Levy would be by the Shoemakers' side again when their comet ended its four-billion-year-long journey through the solar system and collided with Jupiter in the most stunning astronomical display of the century. Not only did this collision revolutionize our understanding of the history of the solar system, but it also offered a spectacular confirmation of one scientist's life work. As a close friend and colleague of Shoemaker (who died in 1997 at the age of 69), Levy offers a uniquely insightful account of his life and the way it has shaped our thinking about the universe.

Early in his training as a geologist, Shoemaker suspected that it wasn't volcanic activity but rather collisions with comets and asteroids that created most of the craters on the moon and most other bodies in the solar system. Convincing the scientific community of the plausibility of "impact theory," and revealing its power for penetrating mysteries such as the extinction of the dinosaurs and the timing of the Earth's eventual demise, became Shoemaker's mission. Through conversations with Shoemaker and his family, Levy reconstructs the journey that began with a young geologist's serious desire to go to the moon in the late1940s. Sent by the government to find a way to harvest plutonium, Shoemaker instead found evidence in desert craters for what became his impact theory. While he never became an astronaut, he did become the first geologist hired by NASA and subsequently set the research agenda for the first manned lunar landing.

After a series of victories and setbacks for Shoemaker, the collision of Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter provided the most convincing proof to date of the role of impacts in our solar system. Levy's explanation of the scientific reasoning that guided Shoemaker in his career up to this dramatic point—as well as his personal portrait of a man who found white-water rafting to be an easy way to relax—sets these fascinating events in a human scale. This biography shows what Shoemaker's legacy will be for our understanding of the story of the Earth well into the twenty-first century.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691113258
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
11/04/2002
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.34(h) x 0.79(d)

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xv

Chapter 1: Of Bonding and Discovery: 1993 3

Chapter 2: Of Family and Ex: 1925-1948 14

Chapter 3: Over the Sea, Over the Sea: 1948 27

Chapter 4: Springtime, Carolyn, and the Colorado Plateau: 1948-1952 30

Chapter 5: A Revolution in Earth 44

Chapter 6: Impact! 58

Chapter 7: A Shun in the Dark: 1953-1960 69

Chapter 8: A Dream Ends, A Dream Begins: 1960-1963 81

Chapter 9: Just Passing By on My Way to the Moon: 1964-1965 92

Chapter 10: Surveyor's Golden Years: 1966-1968 101

Chapter 11: One Giant Leap: 1968-1969 113

Chapter 12: Sail Along, Silvery Moon: 1969-1970 126

Chapter 13: Chairman Gene: 1969-1972 138

Chapter 14: Shoot-out at the Moenkopi Corral: 1970-1972 151

Chapter 15: The Little Prince Revisited: 1972-1979 160

Chapter 16: A Ship Sails: 1977-1989 175

Chapter 17: Cornets and Carlyn: 1980-1995 184

Chapter 18: A Rock-Knocking Geologist: 1984-1995 197

Chapter 19: Springtime on Jupiter: 1993 213

Chapter 20: Yes, Virginia, Comets Do Hit Planets: 1994 225

Chapter 21: New Challenges: 1995-1997 241

Chapter 22: Dr. Shoemaker, I Presume: 1997 251

Epilogue 262

Notes 269

Selected Bibliography 285

Index 297

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >