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Planetary Sciences Hardcover – August 23, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0521853712 ISBN-10: 0521853710 Edition: 2nd

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Editorial Reviews


'The second edition keeps pace with the new discoveries in planetary science. It still has the classic figures and tables, but it also has spectacular new images and new theories. More space is devoted to derivations, so students can learn the material on their own. The book works at many levels, and I will continue to use it in my courses.' Andrew P. Ingersoll, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology

'Planetary Sciences presents a comprehensive coverage of this fascinating and expanding field at a level ... The book explains the wide variety of physical, chemical and geological processes that govern the motions and properties of planets ... a very useful book ... an excellent textbook for anyone studying astronomy and planetary geology ... a rich source of knowledge ... Highly recommended.' Richard Taylor, Spaceflight

'... a comprehensive overview of the planetary science field ...' Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin

'... the book is essentially excellent. Given their formidable task, de Pater and Lissauer have done as good a job as can be imagined, and I can't imagine two other authors doing a better job on a first edition ... this book could serve as a valuable introduction to aspects of planetary science that graduate students might never study at all ... the discussions are generally so comprehensive and up-to-date that active scientists will find the individual chapters to be excellent 'primers' on subjects outside their formal training. There really is no other book at this level like Planetary Sciences.' William B. McKinnon, EOS

'... a massive achievement, and the well-considered problems and exercises at the end of each chapter will be particularly useful to students and to test one's own understanding.' William B. Hubbard, Physics Today

'The illustrations and images are excellently produced ... This hardback volume should serve the degree student well throughout their years of study.' Popular Astronomy

Book Description

An authoritative introduction for graduate students in the physical sciences, this textbook has been substantially updated and improved. With over 300 exercises, it is ideal for courses in astronomy, planetary science and earth science. Color versions of many figures and movie clips supplementing the text are available at

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 663 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (August 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521853710
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521853712
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.2 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 8 customer reviews
And this book does a great job.
Jill Malter
You slog through it's long, dull sections and ask yourself: "what did I just learn from that?", and the answer will be "very little".
Wayne Deeker
Fascinating book especially for a required textbook but my prof always made good choices.
Letitia Kolb

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Jill Malter on November 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
What's the best book to use as a text in a senior-year course on planetary science? This one gets my vote! It seems to cover everything.

After a nice introductory chapter comes the first test for this book: a 20-page chapter on dynamics with 5 pages of exercises. And this book does a great job. It explains Lagrangian points, orbital resonances, the chaotic nature of the orbit of Pluto, tides, the Yarkovski effect, and so on. And it just gets better after that, with more than 70 pages on planetary atmospheres (structure, composition, clouds, winds, photochemistry, escape). This is followed by hefty sections on planetary surfaces, planetary interiors, and planetary magnetospheres, each of which discuss the individual planets and satellites separately.

Next is a chapter on meteorites, along with radiometric dating. A chapter on asteroids: their orbits, size distribution, collisional evolution, surfaces, structures, and asteroid observing techniques. And a chapter on comets, including their origins and constraints on planetary system formation theories.

We return to dynamics for the ensuing chapter, on planetary rings: thicknesses, resonances, density waves, and shepherding. Following that is a chapter on planet formation, followed by a short concluding chapter on extrasolar planets.

The exercises are instructive and useful throughout. I learned a great deal of material from this book, even though it was nowhere near my first exposure to planetary science.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By "klrgrizz" on January 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a superb book, if a little complex. You do need some mathematical and physics background to really follow all the topics. Well written, and having taken a class from Imke de Pater at Cal, a great representation of her work.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Naft on April 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Positive reviewers of this text always say something like "this book has everything." From my point of view, this is exactly the problem. There are too many tables, equations, and graphs in here without enough commentary to throw the big ideas into relief.

The text tries to do too much and the result is that students without extensive background in the material covered by a particular chapter are left unable to do the questions at the end. In my case, the chapter on petrology and cratering was a breeze but planetary atmospheres was hell. I'm ashamed to say so, but I might not have have passed this class without google and wikipedia to fill the explanatory gaps this book left. Others learners with different background may struggle in different subject areas, but the fact remains that this book provides insufficient conceptual explanations for those approaching topics for the first time.

Lots of things asked in the end-of-chapter questions aren't even alluded to in the text. A secondary quibble is that the multipart questions often end with a final part telling you to repeat all the calculations for a different set of planets. If you want to kill your students' enthusiasm, letting them get to the "end" of a problem only to realize they are really only halfway done is a great way to do it.

I used this book for an intro planetary class at MIT, and in my opinion a survey course with such a wide scope should not try to cram so much quantitative substance into itself. As a graduate student in another field seeking more background to understand planetary seminars, I would have benefited from a more conceptual treatment with less emphasis on equations and number crunching.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Deeker on April 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Speaking as both a science writer and lover of astronomy, I hate this book. The worst thing any text can do is turn students off its subject, a crime I consider all the worse given this thrilling and inspirational topic. I have a strong background in many of these subjects, plus a fundamental interest, yet this book makes me wonder why I am bothering. I consider it time stolen from my life rather than an investment in growth.

It's tedious, dull, and worst of all, absolutely passionless. Written mostly in passive voice, and completely full of very technical formulae, It's a tribute to everything wrong with scientific and university philosophy. There's almost zero explanation of what all these facts mean, little synthesis or global understanding. It provides no reason to care. This book is the worst kind of dry tome.

I acknowledge that it's a university text aimed at an advanced level, yet even by those standards the text is much more difficult to understand than it should be. Generally it lacks structural devices such as definitions, and topic overviews or summaries, and apparently works on the assumption that if the authors list every known fact about a topic then some kind of learning will eventually take place. This reflects an ignorance of how people actually learn. The book's existence is testament to the fact that most of its material will be new to most of its readers, yet it's completely incompetent at imparting that to someone not already familiar with it. You slog through it's long, dull sections and ask yourself: "what did I just learn from that?", and the answer will be "very little". Basically, the quintessential worst kind of university teaching distilled into book form.
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