Posted on Friday, January 23, 2015
By Kadri

Solar System Astrophysics: Background Science and the Inner Solar System 
by Eugene F. Milone and William J. F. Wilson

Astrophysics is a fascinating science that seeks to explain how planets and stars form, evolve, interact and move and as such uses observations to find out more about the Universe we live in. In general astrophysics textbooks the reader would encounter almost all of the topics that are covered in “Solar System Astrophysics”, with the difference that our familiar Solar system and in this volume, the inner solar system in particular is looked at more closely and in more detail.

This volume deals with our closest neighbourhood in space – the other rocky planets – Mars, Venus and Mercury, and not forgetting our own planet Earth and also with our Sun and other objects that are quite near the Sun. In addition to the detailed look at the different objects, one also leaves the book with an understanding of the physical laws governing our Solar system and of-course other star systems as well.

In the beginning of the book, the reader can renew their acquaintance with spherical astronomy and celestial mechanics – the necessary basics for any textbook on astrophysics. It then goes on with the Sun, terrestrial planets and their characteristics with a look on the Earth and Moon system and continuing with Mercury, Venus and Mars.

In a way the book is surprising in its depth and richness of detail – of-course you would expect to find the data on the size of the Sun – it’s mass and circumference and what not, but in this book, instead of giving it in a table form, you can read about how these numbers are arrived at, and what and whose research they have been based on – it’s something really useful and very interesting.

As a textbook I found it excellent. Although I’ve taken master’s level courses on astronomy at the university there was a lot of interesting content, and what I loved the most, were the “Challenges” at the end of each chapter – mostly problems where you need to calculate something or derive an equation. However the Challenges are set so that you actually want to do them, and for example figure out how fast the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor was going when it exploded. Also just the detail of calling them “Challenges” instead of “Problems” makes them a lot more appealing.

If you want a detailed account of the inner solar system, I think this is the book to dive into.  

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