The Planets by Nigel Henbest
For the first time in history, astronauts have detailed views on all nine planets that circle the Sun, from Mercury to remote Pluto. This new astronomical portrait gallery also includes enticing images of a myriad of smaller bodies in our part of the Universe - moons, asteroids and the heart of Halley's Comet. Almost all these pictures have come from spacecraft - sophisticated robots that have flown past the planets, become artificial moons of other worlds and even landed on the surface of Venus and Mars. In just a generation, the spacecraft have taught us more about the Solar System than we had learned in the entire previous history of astronomy. As a result, we know parts of Mars and Venus in as much detail as some of the Earth's more inaccessible regions, and we have analysed the wind systems and great spots of Jupiter in as much depth as the Earth's pattern of winds. These views of what are literally new worlds have led us not only to fresh knowledge about the Cosmos, but also to a fuller understanding of the Earth. Venus, for example, provides evidence of the alarming results of a greenhouse effect; Mars is frozen into a perpetual ice age; while the fierce winds on Saturn and Neptune are providing unique insights into the way that our weather and climate works. This book brings together these new images with a non-technical text.