I can’t believe that the UK release of my popular science book Catching Stardust: Comets, Asteroids, and the Birth of the Solar System, is just two months away (and less than 5 months to the US release). It’s available for pre-order here with Bloomsbury or you can check-out your usual bookseller of choice. Initially there’ll be a hardback, e-book and audiobook.
It’s now been read by a few scientists who I approached for comments and reviews and they have all been so kind about it (see below). Once I sent out the book proofs I was so nervous when awaiting for replies to find out their opinions on what they’d read. It’s a strange feeling, I was probably more nervous about this than I was when awaiting my PhD viva exam. Catching Stardust was a huge project for me, one on which I worked alone for many, many months. It is a weird feeling to send it out to people to review…what if they said horrible things? I think part of my fear was because I am too used to the world of academic peer-review which can be a very nasty and massively demoralising experience. Ultimately, it is there to improve a piece of scientific work but the process to reach an agreement for publication can be lengthy and upsetting. I’ve found the book peer-review system to be much kinder, thank goodness. Here’s the comments I’ve received so far:
“Natalie Starkey has packed this book full of information on the minor bodies of our solar system, which are key to understanding how things got the way they are today – a must-have for anyone interested in where we came from.” – Matt Taylor, ESA Rosetta Project Scientist.
“A fast-paced journey through time and space, under the enthusiastic guidance of space geologist Natalie Starkey. Highly recommended.” Monica Grady, Professor of Planetary Sciences, The Open University.
“Catching Stardust describes humanity’s place in the universe, laying out the pivotal role asteroids and comets play in our origin. Dr. Starkey combines her breadth of knowledge and a keen ability to present and interconnect concepts including Earth’s geology, planetary exploration, and the compositional insights hidden in samples of small bodies. Catching Stardust builds a strong case why continuing to explore small bodies is so important to understanding our past and in shaping our future.” Jessica Sunshine, Professor of Astronomy, University of Maryland.
“Kudos for Catching Stardust, an enjoyably engaging recount of the role that comets and asteroids play in teaching us how our Solar System formed and evolved over more than 4.5 billion years. The focus is on advances in the past 25 years and includes current thinking and unanswered questions that is both expertly and accurately written. It reads like an adventure tale.” Lucy McFadden, Emerita at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
And here’s the summary that’ll be included on the jacket cover:
Icy, rocky, sometimes dusty, always mysterious – comets and asteroids are among the Solar System’s very oldest inhabitants, formed within a swirling cloud of gas and dust in the area of space that eventually hosted the Sun and its planets. Locked within each of these extra-terrestrial objects is the 4.6-billion-year wisdom of Solar System events, and by studying them at close quarters using spacecraft we can coerce them into revealing their closely-guarded secrets. This offers us the chance to answer some fundamental questions about our planet and its inhabitants.
Exploring comets and asteroids also allows us to shape the story of Earth’s future, enabling us to protect our precious planet from the threat of a catastrophic impact from space, and maybe to even recover valuable raw materials from them. This cosmic bounty could be as useful in space as it is on Earth, providing the necessary fuel and supplies for humans as they voyage into deep space to explore more distant locations within the Solar System.
Catching Stardust tells the story of these enigmatic celestial objects, revealing how scientists are using them to help understand a crucial time in our history – the birth of the Solar System, and everything contained within it.