Preface and Study Guide to the First Edition

In Discovering the Solar System you will meet the Sun, the planets, their satellites, and the host of smaller bodies that orbit the Sun. On a cosmic scale the Solar System is on our doorstep, but it is far from fully explored, and there continues to be a flood of new data and new ideas. The science of the Solar System is thus a fast-moving subject, posing a major challenge for authors of textbooks.

A major challenge for the student is the huge range of background science that needs to be brought to bear—geology, physics, chemistry, and biology. I have tried to minimise the amount of assumed background, but as this book is aimed at students of university-level science courses I do assume that you have met Newton's laws of motion and law of gravity, that you know about the structure of the atom, and that you have met chemical formulae and chemical equations. Further background science is developed as required, as is the science of the Solar System itself, and it is therefore important that you study the book in the order in which the material is presented. There is some mathematics—simple algebraic equations are used, and there is a small amount of algebraic manipulation. It is assumed that you are familiar with graphs and tables. There is no calculus.

To facilitate your study, there are 'stop and think' questions embedded in the text, denoted by ' '. The answer follows immediately as part of the development of the material, but it will help you learn if you do stop and think, rather than read straight on. There are also numbered questions (Question 1.1, etc.). These are at the end of major sections, and it is important that you attempt them before proceeding—they are intended to test and consolidate your understanding of some of the earlier material. Full answers plus comments are given at the end of the book. Another study aid is the Glossary, which includes the major terms introduced in the book. These terms are emboldened in the text at their first appearance. Each chapter ends with a summary.

The approach is predominantly thematic, with sequences of chapters on the interiors, surfaces, and atmospheres of the major bodies (including the Earth). The first three chapters depart from this scheme, with Chapter 2 on the origin of the Solar System, and Chapter 3 on the small bodies—asteroids, comets, and meteorites. Chapter 1 is an overview of the Solar System, and this is also where most of the material on the Sun is located. Though the Sun is a major body indeed, it is very singular, and it is therefore treated separately. It also gets only very brief coverage, biased towards topics that relate to the Solar System as a whole. There is a significant amount of material on how the Solar System is investigated. The 'discovering' in the title thus has a double meaning—not only can you discover the Solar System by studying this book, you will also learn something about how it has been discovered by the scientific community in general.

A large number of people deserve thanks for their assistance with this book. Nick Sleep and Graeme Nash each commented on a whole draft, and Nick Sleep also made a major contribution to generating the figures. Coryn Bailer-Jones, George Cole, Mark Marley, Carl Murray, Peter Read, and Lionel Wilson commented on groups of chapters. Information and comments on specific matters have been received from Mark Bailey, Bruce Bills, Andrew Collier Cameron, Apostolos Christou, Ashley Davies, David Des Marais, Douglas Gough, Tom

Haine, Andy Hollis, David Hughes, Don Hunten, Pat Irwin, Rosemary Killen, Jack Lissauer, Mark Littmann, Elaine Moore, Chris Owen, Roger Phillips, Eric Priest, Dave Rothery, Gerald Schubert, Alan Stern, George Wetherill, John Wood, and Ian Wright. Jay Pasachoff supplied data for the Electronic Media list. Material for some of the figures was made available by Richard McCracken, Dave Richens, and Mark Kesby. John Holbrook loaned me some meteorite samples to photograph.

Good luck with your studies.

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