Pluto and Charon explores the remote, icebound reaches of our planetary system in an interwoven tale of exotic Pluto, its unusual satellite companion Charon, and the dynamic, high-technology world of twenty-first-century astronomy. Astronomers Alan Stern and Jacqueline Mitton recount a story of planetary astronomy at its frontier. The book begins with a description of the dramatic discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, and continues through to the latest images of Pluto taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Moreover, this revised and expanded second edition includes many new findings about the physical properties of Pluto and Charon, as well as the preparations which are currently under way for the New Horizons Mission, scheduled for launch in January 2006. Stern and Mitton vividly present the major events in the discovery and exploration of the distant Pluto-Charon and introduce the reader to the researchers whose ingenuity and determination opened up the outer solar system for all to appreciate.
Their light and accessible narrative transforms our view of Pluto and Charon from the vague awareness of a faint pinprick of light slowly moving against the constellations into a richer appreciation for a pair of ice worlds with an astonishingly wide range of remarkable attributes. So too, as Stern and Mitton describe, astronomers have evolved their view of Pluto from a planetary footnote to the gateway to the deep outer solar system. Three themes thread this new book. The first concerns the advances made possible by dramatic improvements in ground-based astronomical instrumentation. Second is the revolution in scientific perspective wrought by spacecraft visits to the planets. Stern and Mitton's third theme concerns the cultural revolution that has taken place as humans, born and bred on Earth, have come to know exotic and far distant worlds as real places. Pluto and Charon is the definitive account of the outermost planet in our solar system, its satellite, and its context in the outer solar system.
Peppered with tantalizing predictions of discoveries yet to be made, this innovative and accessible book will be valued by all who are interested in science, astronomy, and the exploration of distant frontiers.
S. ALAN STERN, PhD, is a planetary scientist and astrophysicist with both observational and theoretical interests. Dr Stern is a pilot, a former NASA F-18 and WB-57 flight astronomer, and a principal and experienced research investigator in NASA's planetary research program. He was a finalist candidate to become a NASA Space Shuttle mission specialist. He is the Director of the Department of Space Studies of the Southwest Research Institute; the department is located in Boulder, Colorado. Dr Stern has published more than 170 technical papers and 30 popular articles. His research has primarily focused on studies of the satellites of the outer planets, Pluto, comets, the Oort Cloud and Kuiper Belt, and the formation and evolution of the outer solar system. Dr Stern has led instrument teams for several NASA planetary missions, for the Space Shuttle, and for airborne and suborbital rocket expeditions as well. He is the Principal Investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. JACQUELINE MITTON, PhD, lives in Cambridge, England and works as a writer and editor. She trained as an astronomer at Oxford and Cambridge Universities and has for many years concentrated on bringing astronomy to the general public. For 15 years she was Press Officer for the Royal Astronomical Society, making frequent contributions to radio and TV programs. She writes for both children and adults and has 23 previous books to her credit. Her recent titles include 'Once Upon a Starry Night' and 'Zodiac', (both for children), 'Lifting Titan's Veil' and 'The Cambridge Dictionary of Astronomy'.