Cover image for Encyclopedia of the solar system
Encyclopedia of the solar system
Weissman, Paul Robert, 1947-
Publication Information:
San Diego : Academic Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xviii, 992 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 29 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QB501 .E53 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize
QB501 .E53 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material
QB501 .E53 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



This encyclopaedia is a large-format, single-volume reference incorporating the best of the information generated by recent planetary missions, such as Voyagers I and II, Magellan, Galileo, Pathfinder and the Hubble Orbiting Telescope. It integrates this knowledge in comprehensive and authoritative articles written by over 50 scientists.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

By bringing together the latest information about the solar system, this title makes an important contribution to our understanding of our planetary neighborhood from the Sun to the Kuiper Belt and beyond. As astronaut Sally Ride says in the foreword, "It represents our current state of knowledge on the origin, the evolution, and the fascinating components of our solar system." The contributors are world-renowned scholars in their fields. The book starts with the solar system in relation to the Milky Way Galaxy, and proceeds outward from the Sun to the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Earth) and on to the giant planets. There are three chapters on the fascinating satellites of Io, Titan, and Triton. There also are chapters on solar-system dynamics, planetary impacts, planets and the origin of life, and extrasolar planets. Each chapter includes an outline, cross-references to other chapters, and a glossary. The index includes 4,500 terms. The book is written at the level of college astronomy, with intensive technical writing and quality black-and-white and color photographs. Equations and charts will require the reader to have taken at least calculus to understand the concepts presented. The encyclopedia incorporates recent discoveries obtained by spacecraft about other residents of the solar system. An example is Janus and Epimetheus, two moons of Saturn. They are almost in the same orbit, and every four years the inner satellite overtakes the outer satellite and they exchange orbits, starting the four-year chase over again. Two small criticisms are that the indexing is adequate but not outstanding, and some of the photos are repeated. As an example of the indexing, the chapter "Chaotic Motion in the Solar System" discusses Kepler's laws in relation to the three-body problem, but there is no reference to this discussion under Kepler's laws in the index. An extraordinary photo of an object that "skipped out of the atmosphere" in 1972 appears in three places. In one place the object is called a fireball, and in another place it is called a bolide. One caption describes it as having 1013 to 1014 Joules of energy, and the other describes it as being one-million metric tons. In any case, it was lucky that it did not strike the earth, and it is hard to believe that it was photographed. These are minor problems with a book of this scope and breadth. As an added feature, there is also a Web site available at The Web site features author-recommended links to topics discussed in the chapters, including links to the authors' home pages. The spectacular NASA Atlas of the Solar System [RBB Ag 97] has more photographs but less text than Encyclopedia of the Solar System, which is recommended for academic and large public libraries serving an astronomy clientele. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)

Choice Review

Among the numerous astronomy encyclopedias currently available, this is more focused than most. It covers only the solar system, and does so with commendable depth and expertise. The work is organized as a series of essays, starting with the origin of the solar system and proceeding from the sun outward. Later chapters examine system-wide phenomena, such as the electromagnetic spectrum, planetary volcanism, meteors, and asteroids. Concluding chapters survey the search for life in the solar system, solar system exploration, and the quest for planets in other solar systems. Each chapter includes a glossary and a brief bibliography, and an affiliated Web site includes links recommended by the contributors. The work is well illustrated, mostly in black and white with selected color plates. The extensive subject index pulls the work together. Although written by experts (who usually write for other experts), the work's technical level is appropriate for advanced undergraduates and graduate students. An excellent summary of the state of the art of knowledge gleaned from more than 40 years of planetary exploration. Highly recommended for undergraduate and graduate collections in astronomy and geology. B. E. Fleury; Tulane University