If there’s anything you wanted to know about the Solar System, it’s safe to say that it’s probably somewhere in this book. A work of ambitious scope and detail, and clearly a labour of love, Exploring the Solar System guides us through our local universal neighbourhood in great depth.
With chapters covering the formation of the Solar System, our Sun, each of the planets, the Kuiper belt and other bodies, as well as solar systems elsewhere in the universe, there is little that Bond leaves out here. This book is dense – each chapter could easily be turned into its own textbook.
Designed as an introductory textbook for undergraduates, it gives an essentially exhaustive look through what might form a first or second year university planetary science course. However, this exhaustivity is at the same time something of a weakness. It means that some topics are lacking in depth. In the chapter on the sun, we are guided through everything from nuclear fusion to an explanation of how eclipses happen. The ‘Earth’ chapter covers everything from the planet’s radiation budget to how to work out its surface. But each of these (incredibly interesting) topics only gets a few paragraphs, or in some cases a couple of (well done) diagrams. This means that any student looking to gain a deeper understanding will have to look elsewhere.
Exploring the Solar System achieves what it sets out to do. It is a well-written and produced textbook covering many aspects of solar system science. For the general reader, it sits on the more complicated side of the general popular science level, and even those undergraduates without a strong background in physics or astronomy might find some of what is covered a little bewildering. For those studying planetary science it provides an ideal introduction across a wide range of topics at an appropriate level, but will leave some looking for more.
Reviewed by: Adam Stevens, The Open University