Pluto and Beyond

Published By: Northland (Nrl)

Book Category: Non-Fiction, Science

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Review by Steven King, MBA

Subtitled: A Story of Discovery, Adversity, and Ongoing Exploration

Plato, the brilliant Greek philosopher, rightly concluded, “Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.” Perhaps it is this desire of escape that has inspired stargazers down through the ages to stare into the dark nighttime sky. Whether looking for extraterrestrials or simply a shooting star—many seek escape only provided in the nighttime horizon.

In her book, Pluto and Beyond, Anne Minard traces the history of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. The accomplishments astronomers have had at this observatory are impressive indeed: discovering Pluto in 1930; co-discovering rings around Uranus in 1977; and observations that ultimately led to the discovery that our universe is expanding.

This work mentions Pluto, even lamenting its recent demotion to a dwarf planet, but is not purely about astronomy, however. The casual reader who might be seeking the escape promised by astronomy will find themselves entangled in a veritable “Who’s who” of former Lowell astronomers. Minard’s precise review of the evolution of star mapping or the overly detailed descriptions of correspondence between the observatory’s founder, Percival Lowell, and his underlings will only arrest the deeply committed.

Pluto and Beyond adequately presents the Discovery Channel Telescope, a joint venture between Lowell Observatory and the Discovery Channel. This state of the art telescope is expected to be completed in 2010 and will allow astronomers to peer into the sky above Flagstaff from an elevation of 7800 feet. Scientific discovery will be propelled to new levels as this technology will allow expert examination of Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) and extrasolar planets. Perhaps astronomers will discover something is too near Earth—and maybe suitable intervention will be employed.

If your particular interest in astronomy is the Lowell Observatory, you will enjoy the minutiae presented in this work. If you are looking for a book that details what draws most to Astronomy, or the implications of the scientific inquiry regarding it, you might find your escape elsewhere.

Armchair Interviews says: Heed the reviewer’s qualifying remarks.

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