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Titan Unveiled: Saturn's Mysterious Moon Explored Hardcover – April 21, 2008

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691125879 ISBN-10: 0691125872 Edition: First Edition

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Saturn’s moon Titan, presently being explored by the spacecraft Cassini, has astonishing similarities to Earth—a thick atmosphere, weather, seasons, rivers, and lakes. And defying the demystification that comes with discovery, Titan’s allure seems only to increase the more scientists learn about it. From a historical baseline of pre-Cassini knowledge, the authors outline questions this spacecraft was designed to answer, prime among them, the appearance and nature of Titan’s surface. Obscured by haze, the landscape has been exposed by radar, special optical cameras, and the Huygens lander. The authors cover in detail the information gathered by these and other instruments, which impart a practical sense of how scientists work from raw data toward finished interpretations. A concrete example is data collected by coauthor Lorenz’s impact probe, which hints that Titan’s surface is like wet sand—but instead of water as on Earth, the liquid is methane. Including amazing photographs of Titan’s evident geological dynamism, Lorenz and Mitton’s work has a high “wow” factor that will thrill buffs and may spur students toward a planetary science career. --Gilbert Taylor


"Titan Unveiled describes how most of what we once hypothesized about Titan has been proved wrong. The story of how we gained our current knowledge is fascinating; even more intriguing is what remains to be learned."--Henry Roe, Nature

"Ralph Lorenz . . . has teamed with veteran science journalist Jaqueline Mitton to convey both the human and scientific drama of remote robotic space exploration."--Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History

"Lorenz, a planetary scientist, and Mitton, a science writer, vividly describe this encounter with an alien landscape; excerpts from Lorenz's log convey what it was like to be involved with the mission."--Scientific American

"[A]n engrossing firsthand account of one of humankind's greatest adventures of recent years. It will take decades to prepare a new mission and then an additional seven years for another spacecraft to reach titan. In the meantime, Titan Unveiled provides the general reader with a lively narrative that combines a reliable, nontechnical account of the Cassini-Huygens mission with personal and often intimate insights into these efforts to explore a fascinating planetary analogue to the Earth."--Fred Taylor, American Scientist

"[A]n enjoyable mix: a very accessible summary of current knowledge about Titan is combined with a firsthand account that gives a flavour of what it has been like to be part of this grand, bold, international collaboration that is the Cassini-Huygens project."--Times Higher Education

"Titan's allure seems only to increase the more scientists learn about it...Obscured by haze, the landscape has been exposed by radar, special optical cameras, and the Huygens lander. The authors cover in detail the information gathered by these and other instruments, which impart a practical sense of how scientists work from raw data toward finished interpretations...Including amazing photographs of Titan's evident geological dynamism, Lorenz and Mitton's work has a high 'wow' factor that will thrill buffs and may spur students toward a planetary science career."--Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

"An insider's look behind the headlines, focusing on the thought processes and instrumentation tricks involved. Lorenz's bloglike entries liven up the prose, but the star is Titan."--Richard Lovett, New Scientist

"This fantastic book shines a light on the truth of the matter: that science is about a sense of wonder, awe, the joy of finding stuff."--Nature Geoscience

"Lorenz, the author of this popular account of Titan, is intimately involved in the Cassini-Huygens mission as a planetary scientist, and he contributes personal anecdotes as well as a thorough treatment of the science and technology of missions to Saturn and its moons."--M. Dickinson, Choice

"A fascinating read."--David Tytell, Sky & Telescope

"Titan Unveiled is highly recommended to the intellectually curious general public, as well as to the most seasoned planetary scientists and engineers. In fact, anyone with an interest in science, astronomy, planetary science and exploration, engineering or the evolution of our own planet will find this book captivating and uplifting. Landing on Titan has been one of the greatest adventures of the current decade . . ."--Agustin Chicarro, Physics World

"[W]hile expert readers in the science and engineering community will find much of interest here, it is the book's less technical target audience that will benefit the most. Apart from unveiling the mysteries of an alien world, it opens a window on the mostly hidden world of the planetary scientist, which is equally fascinating."--Mark Williamson, Space Times

"Illustrated with many stunning images, Titan Unveiled is essential reading for anyone interested in space exploration, planetary science, or astronomy."--Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin

"Titan Unveiled is a great read. It also may well prepare the reader for more adventures to Titan in the future."--Coalition for Space Exploration

"Titan Unveiled unveils not only this remarkable moon but also the way that science is done, at least with large scale planetary science. High-school and college students would benefit from following the twists and turns, and the evolving thought, of the scientists involved. And the general reader will enjoy seeing scientific progress revealed as well as the coverage of excellent and interesting results."--Jay Pasachoff, Key Reporter


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (April 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691125872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691125879
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,533,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on October 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The human exploration of distant worlds is a very thrilling subject. Remote/robotic exploration is almost as exciting and can certainly stir human emotions and imagination. This book is about such an event - the exploration of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, through the Cassini mission. By any standard, this is certainly a most amazing accomplishment. The book's first author was, and apparently continues to be, an active scientific participant in this project. Unfortunately, I found that the book falls a bit short of generating in the reader the expected thrills of such an achievement and of the resulting discoveries. The writing style is certainly quite authoritative, generally clear, mostly accessible, occasionally engaging but often a bit dry. There are several detailed descriptions of some of the technical issues that needed to be resolved, as well as of what was being observed on Titan and how these observations were/are being interpreted. I felt that these often dry, frequently lengthy and detailed accounts were at the cost of recounting a continuous gripping story filled with the excitement of discovery and the potentially unpredictable human elements. But on a technical/scientific basis, this book is indeed quite excellent. Consequently, this is a book that would likely be thoroughly enjoyed by serious planetary science buffs. It could also be used as useful reading material in a planetary science course. However, general readers who are looking for an exciting story may be a bit disappointed.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on December 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Saturn's moon Titan is surely one of the most fascinating bodies in the solar system, with a thick atmosphere, Earth-like topography, and complex chemistry that has inspired speculation about primitive life. Starting in late 2004, Titan received a special visit from the Cassini orbiter, which explored the Saturnian system, and the special detachable Huygens probe that was sent to the moon's surface. That mission and the resulting new discoveries are the focus of this book. But the interested layperson is going to have to wait until the last couple of chapters to really learn about all the wondrous new discoveries that have been found on Titan. Alas, much of the rest of the book is a disappointing example of science writing. When scientists decide to inform the general public of their discoveries, they have to remember that not everyone in the public will be as fascinated as they are by the esoteric details of programming, planning, or data analysis.

Introductions to the Cassini/Huygens mission and its related political and budgetary issues are presented with a very poor sense of narrative flow, and will probably be rewarding for a very limited audience of engineering enthusiasts. The text often devolves into the unnecessarily erudite technical specifications of problems like how fast the probe spun upon entry and how many spare models had to be cleaned with what types of hoses during the construction phase. Much of the text is padded with snippets of the author's professional diary ("Ralph's Log"), which are sometimes illuminating but are usually distracting tangents into not-so-useful personal interests.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steve Reina VINE VOICE on November 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
Seventy one light minutes away from Earth, our solar system's second largest moon Titan hangs like a cloud covered enigma.

That Titan even has cloud cover is amazing. Because of this fact Ttian is one of only four bodies in our solar system that have any form of atmosphere including of course Earth along with Venus and barely Mars. I say barely because Mars' thin atmosphere is but 1/100th of Earths.

In this excellent book by astromomer Ralph Lorentz we learn about the history and findings of the Cassini Huygens mission (Cassini for the discover of Saturn's rings and Huygen for the discoverer of Titan). For its part the mission was an outstanding success which greatly enhanced not only our knowledge about the Saturnian system but also enlarged our knowledge about Jupiter and its moons as well.

Oh and not insignificantly,, Huygens was also noteworthy in terms of our ability to land an off Earth explorer some one billion miles away from Eaarth. Because of this landing of course we were able to finally get a significant glimpse beyond the cloud cover that so enigmatically covers Titan. We really saw for the first time it's polar caps and seas of liquid methane. All in all Huygens spent a very productive three hours transmitting data before its batteries went dead.

For these reasons of course the information learned by Cassini Huygens about Titan was merely a peek and not a more thorough going review. As is made all too sadly clear by the many questions left we still have much to learn about Titan.

What's more this book also provides an extra added bonus that was also a boon to Cassinii Huygens mission scientists. We got to see tiny Enceladus, a three hundred mile wide moon that also orbits Saturn.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brent A. Warner on October 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I first came across this book in a review in American Scientist magazine. As the review stated, and as I found to be true when I read the book, it is easy to read because it's well written. Although the first author, Ralph Lorenz, has written technical books on his own, he teamed up with a science writer for this one, and the result is a smooth read. From this book, you will learn about two related topics: what Saturn's moon Titan is like, and what it was like to be part of the team that found that out. I recommend this book for anyone interested in astronomy and space. (Standard disclaimer: my opinions are my own, not necessarily those of my employer.)
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