A few weeks ago, I picked up a new space book from the book bin of a large discount store.
“Discover More (about the) Planets” was a real find. The book was published last year by Scholastic, Inc., specializing in media for school age students; its ISBN is 978-0-545-33028-2. The authors are Penelope Arlon and Tory Gordon-Harris.
The first thing I noticed was an introduction on how to use this book; in each section, there are icons of what is visible to the eye, where to find more information on subsequent pages of the book, and data in boxes that are particularly interesting.
The table of contents has many entries, allowing a reader to quickly find a topic of most interest. The glossary towards the end of the book is not too detailed but essential for beginners. The book ends with an easy to use index.
“Discover More Planets” is only 80 pages in length, a good length for an introduction to our solar system. This book’s cost is $12.99.
The first section starts with a definition of a planet as being a round object that moves about a star, reflecting light from that star.
Planets are divided four ways: rocky planets, gas giants, dwarf planets and planets beyond our sun (often called extra solar planets). But we can’t forget about moons that orbit planets; some moons are bigger than the smallest planet Mercury.
The next section explains our place in the universe with beautiful graphics, going from home to our galaxy. The solar system is next defined as the kingdom of our sun, showing the relative sizes of all the regular planets.
Of these eight planets, six are named after Roman gods or goddesses. The two exceptions are: Earth from the Anglo-Saxon word “Erda” for soil and Uranus named for the Greek god of the heavens.
A brief history of Space exploration notes that the German V-2 rocket was the first man made object to rise above our atmosphere and that Dennis Titov was the first space tourist in 2001. (His ticket price was $20 million!).
The sun gets special notice, being the largest member of the solar system; but among the stars, our sun is only a middle sized star. Mercury gets baked by the sun during the day (800 F) but deep frozen during its long night (-300 F). Venus has the hottest surface (900 F), owing to its compressed atmosphere of carbon dioxide.
The Earth has been called “the Goldilocks” planet, for its just right temperature, atmosphere and surface gravity. These great conditions allow life to have developed in its many forms.
Our constant companion is the moon, that shows only one side to Earth. The changing shapes of the moon (dark moon, crescent, half full, gibbous and full) are explained. There is a nice map of the full moon, showing the main craters and lunar lava fields.
We can’t forget that the moon is the only world that humans have reached. In addition, we have put many thousands of artificial satellites (Mini-Moons) in Earth orbit. About 3,000 satellites are working and 20,000 others, sad to say are useless pieces of space junk. Our best known unmanned satellite is the Hubble Space Telescope, still working after being in orbit since 1990.
Mars is given a nice treatment; its rusty color is from iron oxides in its soil. Mars is half as wide as the Earth but has some features (such as volcanoes, canyon valleys) that dwarf those on Earth. Most asteroids or minor planets stay in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter but some asteroids can be thrown out of their usual orbits and head towards the Earth.
Our last asteroid encounter was on Feb. 15 of this year when a house-sized asteroid exploded high over a Russian city; its shock waves shattered thousands of windows.
Other sections cover the giant planets, the objects beyond Neptune (includes the dwarf planet Pluto), the different types of stars, galaxies, planets about other stars, the Big Dipper, the biggest space rockets (now Europe’s Ariane 5), the International Space Station and our future in Space.
This book is recommended for school libraries and the children’s sections of regular libraries.
SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: The planet Mercury is nearly at its greatest angle to the west of the sun at dawn. If you rise about 5:30 p.m., you have a chance to see the bright planet Jupiter, the planet Mars (below Jupiter) and Mercury (lowest of the three planets) low in the east.
In the evening sky, there are two planets seen in the early evening. Brilliant Venus is low in the west in the twilight (try 9:15 p.m.). As it gets darker, look to the left of Venus to see Spica (brightest star of Virgo) and yet farther to the left to spot Saturn, shining steadily.
Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at email@example.com . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.
A few weeks ago, I picked up a new space book from the book bin of a large discount store.
- Bob Doyle - Astronomy
FSU Planetarium has new outreach program
Several years ago, the FSU planetarium acquired an iPad. Months later, we purchased an iPad projector with necessary cables. I purchased a number of astronomical apps this year for the iPad. So I’m interested in visiting schools in this county to teach the stars and planets to classes. The astronomical apps allow you to survey the current evening night sky and show the planets, bright stars and star groups. One of the apps shows the planets close up with wonderful surface detail (as if you were cruising by in a spaceship). The apps I’ll be using can be purchased from the iTunes app store for a few dollars.
It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore
At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.
Fronts, highs, lows determine weather
Weather news on television and internet focus on violent weather, extreme temperatures and flooding.
A long and winding road faces our food
Last week’s column dealt with organs you can do without, our DNA (molecular blueprint for our bodies) and hair. My reference is “Body: Discover What’s Beneath Your Skin,” a Miles Kelly Book, written by John Farndon and Nicki Lampon and published in 2010. This column will consider finger and toe nails, breathing and coughing, saliva, mucus and your food’s long and torturous journey. Most cities and mid sized towns have nail shops where you can have your finger nails and toe nails adorned. Nail painting can be traced back 5,000 years.
Here’s a look at what goes on inside you
In high school, my favorite science course was biology. I can remember Mr. Munley in his wheelchair. Our class went on a field trip to the University of Miami Medical School where we saw the cadavers used by the medical students.
Moon-watching easy when you know how
Long before the first writing (scratches on clay tablets) appeared, our early ancestors noticed that the moon went through a regular cycle of shapes in about 30 days.
Here’s how you can tell the stars, planets
How can one tell one star from another at night? It’s a matter of knowing the sky areas (constellations).
Smithsonian guide to stars is a good one
At a local book store, I yielded to temptation and bought “Stars and Planets,” a Smithsonian Nature Guide written by four authors. Dinwoodie, Gater, Sparrow and Stott. It’s another Dorling Kindersley product with ISBN 978-0-7566-9040-3 and a 2012 copyright. “Stars and Planets” is a trade size paperback that is beautifully illustrated with appealing diagrams. “Stars and Planets” begins with the biggest topic, the Universe. There is a striking visual showing the known universe on the hugest scale, a delicate lacework of superclusters of galaxies with large voids. It resembles a bubble bath!
Think a little more and be less frazzled
Last Sunday’s column dealt with using technology carefully in education. What about technology in everyday life? There is a marvelous book “The Thinking Life,” by P.M. Forni, of The Johns Hopkins University which addresses this issue as well as timeless suggestions for living by Greek and Roman thinkers. “The Thinking Life: How To Thrive in the Age of Distraction” was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2011 with ISBN 978-0-312-62571-9. Dr. Forni also wrote “Choosing Civility” and “The Civility Solution”.
Technology helps with learning, but take care
Since I have been involved in teaching, two different technologies have been applied to learning at the secondary and collegiate level. The first was video (from videocassettes to DVDs) where a student or class might watch a presentation of some historical event, or a set of scientific principles or even a simulated exploration of the human body.
- More Bob Doyle - Astronomy Headlines
- FSU Planetarium has new outreach program