Perhaps because British science writer Henbest has guided this tour at least five times previously, ( Exploring the Universe et al.) the patter is first rate. For the ``grand tour'' in hand, moreover, he has the advantage computer-enhanced snapshots show: state-of-the-science satellite images, reproduced in color and black-and-white, of all the planets and major moons, save Pluto and Charon. This is a pleasure tour emphasizing the classic astronomic mysteries and anomalies that keep astronomers out of church. Except for the patronizing mistake in the subtitle--several of the photos are from Soviet, not American, space probes--this is a fine, but probably not the final tour from a veteran guide to the solar system. Astronomy Book Club main selection. (Jan.)
The first phase of robotic planetary exploration ended in 1989 when the Voyager 2 spacecraft encountered Neptune. In the span of fewer than 30 years, the data and images returned by various U.S. and Russian probes have revolutionized our understanding of the solar system. Several recent books have attempted to summarize our newfound view of the Earth and its neighbors, e.g., William Sheehan's Worlds in the Sky ( LJ 9/1/92) and The New Solar System , edited by J. Kelly Beatty and others (Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1990. 3d ed.). In contrast to these academic-oriented approaches, Henbest uses the striking images returned by the Mariner, Magellan, Venera, Viking, and Voyager spacecraft to convey to a general audience the grandeur and diversity of the planets and their moons. The accompanying text deftly summarizes the geology and climatology of our neighboring worlds. With the emphasis on the imagery, this entry is more suitable for public libraries as a general introduction and, as such, is recommended for libraries seeking to update their planetary science collections.-- Thomas J. Frieling, Bainbridge Coll., Ga.
This is one of those books that can go most anywhere--on the coffee table, in the reference stacks, or under a Christmas tree. This is one of those books that are as much fun to look at as to read, maybe more. It is jam-packed with glorious color photographs taken by Voyager, Pioneer, and Viking spacecraft as they visited the planets and moons in our Solar System. Added into this bargain is a solid, factual text that will enlighten the budding astronomer and the comfort of realizing that, unlike myriad similar books before it, Henbest's won't soon become outdated, simply because no more grand explorations are on tap, and probably won't be for many years. To sort of quote Yogi Berra, what we know now is what we know. Indeed, in the exploration of our Solar System, the first phase is over, the fat lady has sung, and this book is the recording.