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Near-Earth Objects: Finding Them Before They Find Us [Kindle Edition]

Donald K. Yeomans
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Of all the natural disasters that could befall us, only an Earth impact by a large comet or asteroid has the potential to end civilization in a single blow. Yet these near-Earth objects also offer tantalizing clues to our solar system's origins, and someday could even serve as stepping-stones for space exploration. In this book, Donald Yeomans introduces readers to the science of near-Earth objects--its history, applications, and ongoing quest to find near-Earth objects before they find us.

In its course around the sun, the Earth passes through a veritable shooting gallery of millions of nearby comets and asteroids. One such asteroid is thought to have plunged into our planet sixty-five million years ago, triggering a global catastrophe that killed off the dinosaurs. Yeomans provides an up-to-date and accessible guide for understanding the threats posed by near-Earth objects, and also explains how early collisions with them delivered the ingredients that made life on Earth possible. He shows how later impacts spurred evolution, allowing only the most adaptable species to thrive--in fact, we humans may owe our very existence to objects that struck our planet.

Yeomans takes readers behind the scenes of today's efforts to find, track, and study near-Earth objects. He shows how the same comets and asteroids most likely to collide with us could also be mined for precious natural resources like water and oxygen, and used as watering holes and fueling stations for expeditions to Mars and the outermost reaches of our solar system.

Editorial Reviews


Donald K. Yeomans, Winner of the 2013 Carl Sagan Medal, American Astronomical Society

Donald K. Yeomans, One of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people 2013

"Balancing the wonders of astronomy with the looming potential for an epic, planet-wide disaster, Yeomans, a fellow and research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explores the origins of near-Earth objects--asteroids, comets, meteors, and meteoroids--and the threat they can pose to our planet. . . . Yeomans's book is an accessible and far-ranging primer on the science of near-Earth objects."--Publishers Weekly

"As Earth creaks on its course around the Sun, it is exposed to a relentless barrage of asteroids and comets. Donald Yeomans, who manages NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, offers an introduction to the science of these lethal monsters, one of which may have seen off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago and created the Chicxulub crater. Yeomans shows how the threats are balanced by potential boons, such as the theoretical delivery of the building blocks of life on Earth. Can these reeling masses even become interplanetary pitstops on the road to Mars?"--Nature

"[Near Earth Objects] gives readers an inside account of the latest efforts to find, track and study life-threatening asteroids and comets."'s Observations blog

"Near-Earth Objects is a fascinating tour guide of the asteroids we should worry about."--Marcus Chown, New Scientist

"Despite its title, Near-Earth Objects offers a concise and informative overview of the formation of the entire solar system: why the planets differ, the latest theories on how they lined up and the origin of such leftovers as comets and asteroids. Yeomans also makes a good case that a near-Earth asteroid is an accessible target for our next space adventure, readying us for Mars and preparing us for a time when we might depend on them as a source of rare minerals."--Marcia Bartusiak, Washington Post

"[C]ompact and readable. . . . [Near-Earth Objects's] main goal is to invite readers to share a topic that is fascinating beyond its practical importance."--Fred Bortz, Dallas Morning News

"[Yeomans's] book offers an excellent introduction to the layperson on near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), those objects that can potentially pass within about 29 million miles of Earth as they orbit around the sun. . . . I highly recommend the book. Since it covers so many aspects of these fascinating asteroids, I found it comprehensive and a great read. While Yeomans covers a topic that some of us worry about, he provides the facts needed to stay cool yet informed."--Astro Bob blog

"Yeomans makes it seem like we're uncomfortably close to an asteroid-induced apocalypse. Luckily, he has a sense of humor about it, and he has some sensible scientific solutions."--Sarah Rothbard,

"This is a superb book that brings the reader up-to-speed on those menacing denizens of the deep--Near Earth Objects, or NEOs for short. Moreover, this book is good bedtime reading for those that stay awake at night awaiting celestial calamity."--Leonard David, Coalition for Space Exploration

"The book has an impressive from-the-horse's-mouth authority, yet it also has a pleasing, storytelling style, wry humour and some fun facts."--Hazel Muir, BBC Sky at Night

"Sixty-five million years ago, a 10-km-wide asteroid slammed into Earth, killing off the dinosaurs. While that's the best-known Earth-asteroid collision, the truth is, space debris rains down on us all the time, notes Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office. He and other scientists are on a mission to track the largest asteroids that swarm around our planet, and his book is a behind-the-scenes look at how they do it--hopefully finding them before they find us."--Maclean's Bookmarked blog

"Unlike many books involving space exploration I didn't get the feeling of fantasy, wishful thinking or sabre rattling. Yeomans just gives us good, reasoned arguments, presented in the main in a likeable, friendly fashion. . . . [I]f you are interested in astronomy, the solar system or the survival of the human race, this is a book that should spark your interest."--Brian Clegg, Popular Science

"This authoritative book, written in a lucid style well suited to intelligent laypersons, addresses this subject. . . . [E]xcellent . . ."--Choice

"Near-Earth Objects is an excellent, short, very detailed, complete reference on rocks flying through Earth-space. . . . [T]his book is highly recommended. It is a wonderful resource, very well written and full of great footnotes."--Haym Benaroya, Quest

From the Inside Flap

"This is a wonderful and timely book, not to mention a great read! Asteroids are indeed wondrous objects, and it is simply a matter of time before we find one with our address on it. Yeomans' unparalleled expertise, storytelling skills, and wry sense of humor are a savory delight. Enjoy!"--Rusty Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut

"The nearby asteroids are Earth's closest neighbors and key stepping stones for our expansion into space. Yet these rogue space rocks can also threaten our planet. Noted scientist Donald Yeomans is one of NASA's 'men in black,' keeping an eye out for wayward asteroids. He clearly explains what we know about these celestial denizens--and what discoveries will help us avoid a cosmic catastrophe."--Tom Jones, veteran astronaut, author of Sky Walking

"Many people consider near-Earth objects to be important only because they pose a threat to Earth, but there are many other reasons for studying them. This book explains why. I know of no better introduction to the subject."--Michael F. A'Hearn, University of Maryland

"This is an excellent and interesting book. I found it enjoyable and informative, and I strongly recommend it to anyone seeking a better understanding of near-Earth objects and the solar system in general."--Daniel J. Scheeres, University of Colorado at Boulder

"This is a fine book. Yeomans treats all the important aspects of his topic, including finding near-Earth objects and calculating their orbits, the broader issues of solar system origins and early evolution, the threat of impacts by near-Earth objects of various sizes, and approaches to preventing impacts from occurring. The scholarship is at a high level."--Clark R. Chapman, Southwest Research Institute

Product Details

  • File Size: 1269 KB
  • Print Length: 183 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 11, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009OQ8A9E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #429,060 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Overview of NEOs January 16, 2013
In ten spellbinding chapters, the author presents a highly accessible summary of the important subject of near-earth objects. After describing the origin and structure of the solar system, he discusses the nature, composition, location, observation and tracking of near-earth objects (asteroids and comets). Of particular interest are past impacts that some of these bolides have had on the earth's surface and the resulting consequences. In view of such threats to earth and, indeed, to civilization, the author emphasizes the importance of locating and keeping track of such objects and of developing viable methods of deflecting them away from the earth should the need arise in the future.

What I found that stands out the most in this fascinating book is the prose's superb clarity. This is extremely important in a book on a technical subject. The author, a seasoned expert in this field, is able to communicate his knowledge in a very friendly, captivating, lively and straightforward way. This book can be enjoyed by any interested reader; however, I believe that science and astronomy enthusiasts would be likely to relish it the most.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly informative but requires careful reading May 28, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is jam-packed with useful and interesting information about asteroids and comets, whose significance is multifold. Thus, these objects are primordial, preserving in their composition the conditions of the very beginning of our solar system; they were almost certainly instrumental in bringing the essential ingredients of life - water and carbon-based organic molecules - to Earth; and what they giveth they also taketh away, since they are probably responsible for mass extinctions on this planet. The emphasis of the book is on those asteroids and comets that regularly or occasionally come into the vicinity of Earth's orbit, thereby posing a potential threat to our own continued existence.

For me the most salient point made by the book - and repeatedly so - is that the most dire threat to Homo sapiens comes from long-period comets, since, even though they become "near-Earth objects" with far less frequency than asteroids, they tend to give us very little advance warning of their trajectory or even existence. Thus, if one happened to have our name on it, there would likely be insufficient time for us to prepare an adequate defense against it. Add to that fact that these objects will be traveling much faster than a typical in-coming asteroid and can also be huge, and you have the makings for humanity's ultimate catastrophe.

Although Yeomans makes no bones about this sobering situation, his remarks throughout the book tend to be on the positive side. What he emphasizes is that, given a robust enough program of detecting near-Earth objects, we are in a position to defend against the vast majority of them even with present-day technology. Indeed, the achievements of the Spaceguard program and others in a very short period of time have been utterly impressive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The premise of this book by Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist Donald H. Yeomans is that of all of the threats to life on this planet, perhaps the most significant is a mass extinction coming from either a comet or asteroid impact. This seems all the more real because of the Chelyabinsk, Russia, event on February 15, 2013. In "Near-Earth Objects: Finding Them Before They Find Us" Yeomans offers a general audience an introduction to the science of near-Earth objects--especially the history, applications, and ongoing quest to find these celestial objects before they hit Earth.

I was introduced to this reality twenty years ago at the annual meeting of this professional society when a noted scientist gave a presentation entitled "Chicken Little Was Right." He claimed that humans had a greater chance of being killed by a comet or asteroid falling from the sky than dying in an airplane crash. This is true, especially as one projects the risk over a very long period of time. Mathematical calculations confirm that every person alive today faces 1 chance in 5,000 that he or she will be killed by some type of extraterrestrial impact during his or her lifetime since several thousand meteorites, comets, and asteroids cross Earth's orbit, and many small pieces enter the atmosphere every day. One need only look at the craters on the Moon, and such wonders as Meteor Crater in Arizona, to verify the fact that solar system bodies make fine targets for comets and asteroids. More than ever before, as Yeomans's makes clear, throughout history asteroids and comets have struck Earth with destructive consequences.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Introduction to the Subject! January 5, 2013
This is an excellent book. Donald Yeomans does a great job explaining the different types of near-earth objects and why they are important. Many people think that that they are only important because they pose a threat to the Earth, but Yeomans discusses their history and potential importance in the future, in terms of the massive quantities of resources that we are likely to find (such as platinum and water) in NEOs. Think of the relatively new company Planetary Resources, and their credible plans to harvest these resources.

He talks extensively about the hard work that has been done finding and cataloging a very high percentage of NEOs already, and what work remains to be done. All in all, I really enjoyed this book!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for all human beings.
Yeomans explains asteroids beautifully. My only disappointment was there was not reference to the B612 Sentinel Mission, but perhaps that was not defined at the time the book was... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sammy Welsh
5.0 out of 5 stars Watch Where You’re Going With That Thing!
Like a murder mystery, Near Earth Objects builds up a drama. The highlight of this documentary is molded in the last two chapters, Near Earth objects and Predicting the Likelihood... Read more
Published 5 months ago by D. Wayne Dworsky
4.0 out of 5 stars A comrehensive review of an important contemorary topic.
Yeoman's book is a well-constructed, informative, easy to read book that discusses the human and scientific history of things that hit Earth. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Andrew Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Very scholarly work on Near Earth Objects
This is an excellent and up to date book on near earth objects. The author has done his research well and is extremely knowledgeable on the subject. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Gerald Black
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading
This is a good book with some history and examples. I have a pretty extensive knowledge of this subject and found this a valuable guide with some points I hadn't known.
Published 14 months ago by Charles Springer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great source of reliable information about NEOs
You can't beat Don Yeomans as an authority on near-Earth objects (NEOs). If you'd like to know what's out there and how we might prevent a serious impact one day, this is a great... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Science Writer
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative and Up-to-Date
Describes the Science and Discovery up to the present,
of NEO's. Very interesting... It is a very good read will
wet your appetite !
Published 16 months ago by VincentCarlini
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding work.
A very difficult topic to offer to the general public. Clear, concise statements of well researched scientific fact and theories delivered in a straightforward manner, with no... Read more
Published 17 months ago by jmactwice
5.0 out of 5 stars "The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space...

"During the morning of October 6, 2008, Eastern Standard Time...[the] director of the Minor Planet Center, couldn't believe what his computer was telling him. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Stephen Pletko
3.0 out of 5 stars It's a nice book understand the subject.
If you do not know much of anything about Near Earth Objects, this is your book. Great basic text on the current state of the art (as of 2012). Read more
Published 19 months ago by Thomas M. Nathe
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More About the Author

At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Don Yeomans is a JPL Fellow, Senior Research Scientist, Manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office and Supervisor of the Solar System Dynamics Group. Dr. Yeomans was the Radio Science team chief for NASA's Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission. He was the NASA Project Scientist for the Japanese mission to land upon, and return a sample from, a near-Earth asteroid (Hayabusa) and he is a scientific investigator on NASA's Deep Impact mission that successfully impacted comet Tempel 1 in July 2005 and flew past comet Hartley 2 in November 2010. He provided the accurate predictions that led to the recovery of comet Halley at Palomar Observatory on October 16, 1982 and allowed the discovery of 164 BC Babylonian observations of comet Halley on clay tablets in the British Museum.

In the off hours, he collects and studies ancient roman coins and plays tennis (......badly).


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