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August 10, 2016


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June 1, 2016

Here Comes the Sun

A Look at Solar System: A Visual Exploration of the Planets, Moons, and Other Heavenly Bodies that Orbit Our Sun


It wasn’t until the 16th century, after nearly 2,000 years of assuming our Earth was the center of the universe, that a Polish astronomer named Nicolaus Copernicus presented a revolutionary (and quite controversial at the time) theory: Earth, along with other planetary bodies, are simply spinning in orbit around the sun.  Copernicus’s heliocentric model was groundbreaking, but not exactly accurate. He, and many after him, believed the sun was the center of the entire universe.  Of course, we now know that ours is but one of innumerable solar systems in an infinite and ever-expanding universe (yes, it makes my head hurt a bit too).  But we’ll cut Nicolaus some slack…

Since Copernicus’s bold theory, we’ve learned quite a bit about this solar system of ours, and Marcus Chown and Touch Press (the people who produced The Elements: Teachers | Parents) have collected a hefty sum of information, history, and visuals in Solar System: A Visual Exploration of the Planets, Moons, and Other Heavenly Bodies that Orbit Our Sun. It’s a bit like a museum in book form!

With stunning images and infographics, Chown takes us on a vivid journey through space, hopping from one planet to the next, and focusing on fascinating topics such as the sun’s magnetic field (fact: the sun is the strongest magnet in the solar system), water on Mars (fact: there is evidence that an enormous ocean once covered a third of Mars’s surface), and Halley’s Comet (fact: the comet’s flight past Earth in 1066 is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry that commemorates Normandy’s invasion of England).  Still a contentious issue, Pluto’s demotion from the solar system’s ninth planet to just another dwarf planet is handled deftly: when a large number of icy rock objects were discovered in the Kuiper Belt of orbiting rubble, some possibly larger than Pluto, the International Astronomical Union changed Pluto’s status to that of a dwarf planet. Poor Pluto!

Solar System is a treasure trove for anyone who’s gazed through a telescope or been awed by shooting stars (meteors produced from the dust streams of comets passing by Earth, if you were wondering) or pondered anything from extraterrestrial life to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

While we’re on the subject of the awesomeness of space…you may have seen this viral video floating around during the past few weeks. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, certainly has a way of relating the enormity of the universe to the profundity of human experience, and this video just might give you shivers:

And finally, a bonus for anyone who, like me, has a special nostalgia for Carl Sagan’s excellent Cosmos series:

[Solar System is available in Club Shop, Arrow March, TAB March, and Blast Off! Science & Math: Teachers | Parents]

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March 20, 2012