Jupiter (Sheehan & Hockey)

By William Sheehan & Thomas Hockey Reviewed by John Rogers
Reaktion Books 2023192 pages
Price £20ISBN:9781789147056

Here is an attractive, wide-ranging guide to Jupiter, very well written and accessible for readers at any level. It is non-technical and reasonably short, and yet covers the full range of topics from orbital resonances to Jovian meteorology, and from the 1994 Comet Crash to Io’s volcanism. Throughout, it gives an inspiring appreciation of the grandeur and beauty of this majestic planet, whether witnessed by ancient peoples, or spacecraft, or modern amateurs.

The authors are well-known experts on astronomical history and, in Thomas Hockey’s case, on Jupiter. Their account is particularly strong on historical aspects, including many that are not widely known. I particularly enjoyed the early chapter on how ideas of planetary formation have developed over the centuries, and the interesting biographical insights (including for some famous BAA observers in our first half-century). Throughout the book there are many fine historical pictures, and some wonderful quotations from people ranging from Christiaan Huygens to Percival Lowell and Walt Whitman.

Topics in Jovian atmospheric dynamics and chemistry are inevitably simplified, but as there are still many uncertainties in these fields, for which Juno continues to reveal unexpected complexities, this approach should not trouble the non-expert reader.

There are also plenty of well-reproduced modern illustrations, many in colour. (The reader should be aware, though, that while most drawings and images have south up, some have north up; and that all the pictures on pp.132–5 are Galileo orbiter views of Io.)

This is a paperback edition of a book first published in 2018, so it includes only a short chapter on Juno, with some of the spacecraft’s early images. Given that this mission’s scientific results are still to be concluded and digested, it is good to have this useful primer on the state of our knowledge until then. It ends with a short account of how amateurs can observe Jupiter, and after such an engaging introduction to the planet, we can hope that more people will be inspired to do so.

Dr John Rogers is Director of the BAA Jupiter Section and author of The Giant Planet Jupiter

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