Monday, June 18, 2012

"How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming" Review

I have recently finished reading this book by Dr. Mike Brown, the man who killed Pluto.

It is a little tale about how Brown began his lifelong search for other planets within the Solar System.  It chronicles his early days as an astronomer, meeting his wife, having a daughter, finding new planets orbiting the Sun, and the struggle to have just what a planet is redefined.  It is a short read, but it delivers in both information and character.

Of course being the astronomer nut he is, Brown goes to great lengths to describe not only the night sky, but also the struggles an astronomer must cope with to find the discoveries of a lifetime, such as analyzing hundreds of star maps for moving objects.  When laying out the details of the objects him and his team have uncovered from the depths of space, Brown doesn't try to confuse the reader.  He instead lays the basic principles of how to determine the size of an object, the distance from Earth, determining the orbit, analyzing the object's primary elements, and so on.  To help aid his readers, Brown even includes illustrations of the concepts he covers.  Being an experienced educator, Brown knows how to keep his audience's attention while driving the points home.

What adds character to this books is not only his very laid back style of writing, but also his inclusion of his personal life.  Not just content to give a brief history of astronomy, Brown shares his own.  He lays out his personal relationships with his peers to show the very human aspect of his work.  He drinks coffee with his coworkers while sifting the night sky.  He meets a woman, Diane, professionally and soon finds himself married and having a daughter with her.  He bonds with his newborn, Lilah, every chance he gets.  Brown even encounters rivalries within the astronomical community after a controversy over the true discoverer of a new planet.  There is much to learn about being a full-time astronomer.  Mike Brown delivers a good taste of what that's like.

I have definitely enjoyed reading this book.  Astronomy is a fun hobby of mine, and learning a little of the 21st century world of astronomy is pretty fresh.  Being a very new event, it is weird knowing Pluto is no longer a planet like many of us once knew.  I would strongly recommend reading this book if this topic is of interest to you.  I hope to find others out there like it.

Forsaken Eagle

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