Category Archives: Science

Book Review – The Grand Tour: A Traveler’s Guide to the Solar System

As many people know, I have a degree in physics and astronomy, so I love to read about space and the planets.  When I found “The Grand Tour: A Traveler’s Guide to the Solar System” in a bookstore here in Japan, I knew I had to buy it.  This is the third edition, published in 2005.  It was written by and contains artwork by artist and author Ron Miller and artist, author and astronomer William K. Hartmann.

This book is set up to take you on a tour of the solar system as if you are a first time visitor.  It starts out with an overview of the solar system and describes how the book is laid out.  Then it describes how the solar system came to be.  It is a bit scientific here, but reasonably easy to read.

The meat of the book comes next.  Instead of going through the planets in order, it starts off with the largest bodies in the solar system.  Beginning with Jupiter, we get to learn about each body, from the structures to the atmospheres.  It moves on to Saturn, then Uranus, Neptune, and finally the Earth.  After the Earth, it continues with Venus, Mars and then Ganymede.  Ganymede?  Yes, Jupiter’s largest moon is larger than the planet Mercury.  But Mercury isn’t next, it’s Titan.  Then it’s finally Mercury.  So basically, it continues on looking at the planets, satellites, dwarf planets, a few major asteroids, Kuiper Belt objects and comets.  Each is accompanied by the latest photographs and beautiful artwork.  It even contains photographs from Cassini and Huygens from Saturn and Titan, as well as the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars.  It doesn’t include any photos from MESSENGER at Mercury, Phoenix at Mars, or Dawn at Vesta.  Those missions occurred after this book was published.

The book concludes with a section on Exoplanets and a glossary of terms.  I really enjoyed reading this book and seeing the artwork.  It’s a must for anyone who loves astronomy and planetary exploration.  I look forward to the fourth edition, if there is one, with pictures from Vesta, Ceres, Pluto, Mercury, and more!

I’ll give this a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars.  Highly recommended!