The Planets


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David McNab and James Younger

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During the last forty years, human beings have broken free of the Earth and ventured out to other worlds orbiting the Sun. We have visited every planet except Pluto, discovered dozens of new moons in orbit around other planets, and put to rest myths and fantasies that have been accepted for centuries. This magnificent book chronicles our planetary travels, explains the creation and evolution of each planet, and tells how our understanding of the solar system has developed from the first stargazers in ancient times to Galileo to the present.
In an engaging narrative that draws on interviews with U.S. and Soviet scientists and astronauts, state-of-the-art computer graphics, and space race archives, David McNab and James Younger reveal the wonders of the planets. With the help of striking pictures from the Apollo, Voyager, Pioneer, and Viking space missions, the authors describe planetary marvels: volcanoes three times the size of Mount Everest, worlds with seas of methane, rivers of lava longer than the Nile, clouds of sulfuric acid, and frosts of pure shining metal. They also investigate the possibilities of life elsewhere in the solar system, present a new perspective on the Sun and on Earth’s atmosphere, and speculate about the evolution of the solar system over the next five billion years—to what may be its death.
The book, which is a companion volume to a highly regarded, eight-part Arts and Entertainment television series, invites us on an amazing adventure, one that will stretch the imagination to its limit.

Copublished with BBC Worldwide

David McNab and James Younger are award-winning BBC television producers who specialize in science documentaries. McNab is series producer and Younger is a producer for the television series The Planets. Before joining the BBC, Younger was a science economist for the New York Times and the Economist.

A selection of the Astronomy Book Club and Book-of-the-Month Club


“This book tells the story of the people who turned dreams into reality. It is one of the most exciting books of popular astronomy I have ever read.”—Sergei Khrushchev, rocket engineer and son of former Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev

“As intelligent and readable as Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, The Planets surveys the history and current knowledge of the solar system. Original and fresh . . . A page-turner.”—David Grinspoon, University of Colorado, author of Venus Revealed

“Superbly produced, up-to-date and authoritative, this book offers a marvelous account of the human quest to understand our solar system from the earliest times to the latest space probes.”—Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and author of Before the Beginning

"The exotic natures of Earth’s companions in the solar system are exuberantly displayed here. . . . Rather than dryly recite the Mercury-to-Pluto litany, [McNab and Younger] instead organize the text around commonalities: the planets’ birth out of a condensing nebula, their accretion into either hard rock or gas giants, their volcanism, their atmospheres, and their congeniality, past or present, to life."—Booklist

“From planet Earth, its moon, and our ‘near’ neighbors, Mercury, Venus, and Mars to giant Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, and the moon of our distant Pluto, The Planets not only looks at the bodies in our solar system, but even those beyond. This book is lavishly illustrated with striking photographs. The authors . . . examine their subject in the context of recent discoveries. We learn almost as much about the scientists and astronauts as about the planets.”—Merle Rubin, Christian Science Monitor

“Amazing pictures from the space missions as well as computer graphics complement the highly informative and entertaining text. . . . A book that has such a readable style and a wealth of up-to-date information is bound to be a valuable addition to any astronomy collection.”—Cynthia J. Rieben, School Library Journal

“Wonderfully illustrated and well-written, The Planets begins with a discovery in the 1930s and quickly moves to the rest of the Solar System, covering subjects in a topical matter rather than chronologically. The authors do a great job of explaining the formation and evolution of each planet, the sun, and planets outside our solar system.”—Elvita Landau, Public Library Association

The Planets is beautifully illustrated and is written in an inviting manner that conveys the anticipation and excitement of planetary exploration. . . . The Planets is certainly worth reading. It is a wonderful introduction to planetary science and is sure to inspire readers to inquire further and to keep up with developments in the field.”—Margaret Carruthers, Science Books & Films

“The magnificent photographs first grab the eye of the reader. Included in the text is the historical and current information about the Solar System. The format is easily followed.”—Eva Efron, American Association of School Libraries

Selected as an "Outstanding" title in 1999 by Association of American University Presses (AAUP) University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries
ISBN: 9780300080445
Publication Date: August 11, 1999
Publishing Partner: Copublished with BBC Worldwide
240 pages, 10 x 11
47 b/w + 232 color illus.