Cover image for The Cambridge encyclopedia of amateur astronomy
The Cambridge encyclopedia of amateur astronomy
Bakich, Michael E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xii, 342 pages : illustrations (some color), maps ; 29 cm
General Note:
Includes index.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QB64 .B36 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

On Order



The Cambridge Planetary Handbook is an invaluable reference text, bringing together key facts and data on the planets and their satellites, discoverers and researchers. It summarises many centuries' worth of data, from the earliest observations of the planets through to the most recent spaceprobe findings. The author discusses the history, mythology and theories of the main objects in our solar system, and provides a comprehensive information section with accurate and up-to-date data on the planets. The book contains excellent photography and explanatory illustrations, along with numerous historical drawings from Galileo, Huygens, Herschel and other astronomers. This book is a must for all astronomy enthusiasts, as well as academic researchers, students and teachers. Those unfamiliar with the sky will find this a user-friendly guide written in clear, non-technical language.

Author Notes

Michael E. Bakich has a BS in Astronomy from Ohio State University and an MA in Planetarium Education from Michigan State University. He currently resides in EI Paso, Texas, where he is a writer, a planetarium consultant, and also leads tours to see eclipses and astroarchaeological sites.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Combining both recent knowledge and historical background about the planets of the solar system, this source will be a valuable addition to the astronomy collections of both academic and public libraries. The author also wrote The Cambridge Guide to the Constellations (Cambridge, 1995). The book is arranged in two parts. Part one presents planetary data, such as atmospheric pressure, composition, and future conjunctions and transits. Part two contains a summary on each planet, including its moons. These summaries cover cloud and atmospheric conditions, surface features, historical early ideas about each planet, and recent discoveries from the Hubble Space Telescope and other data collected in the "late 1990s." The planetary information is supplemented by historical photographs, illustrations, and portraits. Appendixes provide very brief biographies of selected astronomers and a glossary. The handbook is well suited for amateur astronomers and students of astronomy. Readers with less technical background may need to refer to a scientific dictionary, and professional astronomers may find the coverage too popular. This title makes a nice companion to Encyclopedia of the Solar System [RBB Mr 15 99]. For instance, The Cambridge Planetary Handbook provides data on the surface gravity of the planets, while Encyclopedia of the Solar System provides a discussion of Newton's laws of motion and the universal law of gravity.

Choice Review

Bakich's handbook contains extensive numerical data on the planets and their satellites, and enriches and expands the tabular material with a description of each planet, giving the historical background and the current state of understanding. The text is well organized, with excellent summaries of the major observational advances interspersed with notes on the work of the scientists who have contributed to the studies. A nice feature is the chronology given for each planet. But the absence of more satellite images, especially for the inner planets and Jupiter, is disappointing, and it would have been appropriate in a handbook to include maps identifying prominent surface features discussed in the text. The failure to include a chapter on minor planets and asteroids is surprising. The tabular material is organized so as to facilitate the comparison among the planets of a given quantity (for example, orbital period). The book is suitable for the lay reader who wants to have details of the solar system at hand, or for an undergraduate interested in planets. The professional can satisfy the need for a specific number by consulting an authoritative compendium such as Allen's Astrophysical Quantities by C.W. Allen, ed. by Arthur N. Cox (4th ed., 2000). General readers; lower-division undergraduates. ; National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Acknowledgementsp. ix
Part 1 Lists
Albedop. 5
Angular sizep. 6
Atmospheric compositionp. 7
Atmospheric pressurep. 10
Brightness and size of the Sun from each planetp. 11
Brilliancy at oppositionp. 12
Cloud featuresp. 13
Constellations visited by the Moon and planetsp. 14
Densityp. 15
Distances from Earthp. 16
Distances from Sunp. 17
Eccentricityp. 18
Escape velocityp. 19
Future dates of conjunctionp. 20
Future dates of oppositionp. 24
Future significant alignmentsp. 26
Future transitsp. 29
Inclination of orbitp. 30
Magnetic field strength and orientationp. 31
Massp. 34
Named features on the planets and the Moonp. 35
Names of the planets, Sun and Moon around the worldp. 44
Oblatenessp. 46
Orbital periodp. 47
Orbital velocityp. 48
Rotational periodp. 49
Rotational velocity (equatorial)p. 50
Sizep. 51
Solar irradiancep. 52
Speed of light travel timesp. 53
Surface gravityp. 54
Synodic periodp. 55
Temperature rangep. 56
Tilt of axisp. 57
Volumep. 58
Wind speedsp. 59
Albedop. 63
Densityp. 65
Discoverers and dates of discoveryp. 67
Distance from planetp. 69
Eccentricityp. 71
Inclination of orbitp. 73
Massp. 75
Orbital periodp. 77
Sizep. 79
Part 2 Planets
Mercuryp. 83
Venusp. 105
Earthp. 134
Marsp. 165
Jupiterp. 203
Saturnp. 232
Uranusp. 261
Neptunep. 276
Plutop. 297
Appendix A Short biographies of some astronomersp. 310
Appendix B Unit conversion tablep. 315
Glossaryp. 316
References and sourcesp. 334
Indexp. 335