Planetary Science

The Science of Planets around Stars, Second Edition

By George H. A. Cole, Michael M. Woolfson

© 2013 – CRC Press

607 pages | 15 Color Illus. | 353 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9781466563155
pub: 2013-06-09
US Dollars$94.95

Comp Exam Copy

About the Book

Since the publication of the popular first edition, stellar and planetary scientists have produced numerous new observations, theories, and interpretations, including the "demotion" of our former ninth planet Pluto as a dwarf planet. Covering all of these new discoveries, Planetary Science: The Science of Planets around Stars, Second Edition explains the science associated with the planets, the stars they orbit, and the interactions between them. It examines the formation, evolution, and death of stars and the properties of the Sun that influence the planets of the Solar System. Along with more problems, this second edition adds new material and improves some analytical treatments.

The book consists of two main components. For students unfamiliar with stellar properties or the overall structure of the Solar System, the first part gives a general picture of the system as a whole and the interrelationships of the bodies within it. It presents an overview of the nature of stars and the Solar System as well as important results obtained by scientific analysis.

The second component is a set of 43 appendices describing the majority of the underlying science required to explain the main features of the Solar System. These appendices cover a variety of specialized topics, from mineralogy to the mechanical interactions of radiation and matter.

End-of-chapter problems give students a quantitative understanding of stellar and solar system phenomena. The text shows how useful estimates of various quantities can be made even when characteristics of the system are not known with any precision. While the problems can be completed with a hand calculator, students are encouraged to use the Fortran computer programs provided on the book’s CRC Press web page.

Avoiding excessive details, this textbook offers a comprehensive account of stellar and planetary topics. It is suitable for students from a range of disciplines, including astronomy, geology, and earth sciences. The book provides students with an understanding of the nature of the Solar System and the influences that govern its behavior, helping them develop an appreciation of the forces that can influence our planet in the future.


"… a very comprehensive introduction to planetary science addressed to first-level students or self-learning readers. The main chapters provide pieces of information about topics related to solar planets and exoplanets and are supplemented by appendices, which give a broader physical and astrophysical context to these topics. … the book should be considered by lecturers as a good textbook for planetary science courses at universities and schools all over the world."

Pure and Applied Geophysics, March 2014

"The book is an unusual combination of an account at a popular and very readable level of the origin of the solar system and some very detailed calculations regarding the basic physics that underpin all the processes. All students of the subject will find this later part invaluable. There are also many problems included that university students doing a formal course would find very useful."

—Iwan Williams, School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary, University of London

Praise for the First Edition:

"This is a strong contender for a text suitable for an undergraduate course in planetary science … pitched at exactly the right level for an undergraduate physics or astronomy student … At the end of each chapter and topic there are one or two problems, well chosen to illustrate the material and to reinforce the reader’s understanding … if I were teaching a course on the solar system, I would certainly have this book on my desk and use it frequently."

—Jeremy B. Tatum, The Observatory

"… a useful contribution to the literature … The chapters and most of the topics end with one or two questions to which full answers are given—a welcome feature."

—B.W. Jones, Contemporary Physics, 2003,

"… good textbooks have been rare indeed, so this new edition by two eminent British professors of the subject is more than welcome, not just because it is overdue, but because it is excellent, one of the best in what is still a very limited field. Its quality derives from the broadly based knowledge of the authors and their consequent ability to expound on a wide range of topics … Best of all, they stick closely to the physics, and the treatment is richly quantitative, complete with problems at the end of each section … Care is taken throughout, even in the title of the book, to emphasize the universality of the principles involved … this is the book for anyone involved in teaching or learning the science of planets around stars."

—F.W. Taylor, Surveys in Geophysics

"Their book elegantly combines physics, mathematics, geophysics, and astronomy … The second part is refreshingly unusual, concentrating on 41 planetary science topics … The mathematical and physical approach is elegant, relevant, and at a typical second-year university level. This book encourages understanding and not mere assimilation of data."

—David Hughes, New Scientist, March 2003

"The authors take the information we know of our Solar System to form the basis of a generalized planetary science, which can then be applied to any external star system … The material would be appealing to students in physics, astronomy, geology, or other science majors looking for a comprehensive overview of planetary science. Even though this book is meant to be used as a textbook, the interested individual will find it engaging and instructive. Highly recommended for academic collections."

E-STREAMS, Vol. 5, No. 11

"Overall the book achieves its goal of providing a basic text in planetary science, while providing instructors a fair amount of flexibility in drawing basic course material from the text as well as providing a useful reference for students. It also has a relatively large number of problems and exercises to illustrate the basic concepts … could very nicely serve as a basic text on which to build an advanced undergraduate or graduate-level course in planetary science."

—Robert H. Brown, Departments of Planetary Sciences and Astronomy, University of Arizona, USA

Table of Contents

Unity of the Universe

Cosmic Abundance of the Chemical Elements

Some Examples

The Sun and Other Stars

The Galaxy, Field Stars, Binaries, and Clusters

Composition of Stars

Interstellar Medium

Dense Cool Clouds

Heating and Cooling of Galactic Gases

Scenario for Producing a Dark Cool Cloud

Formation of a Galactic Cluster

Main-Sequence Stars and Their Evolution

Stars, Brown Dwarfs, and Planets

Stellar Planetary Systems

The Planets

Overview of the Planets

Orbital Motions

Orbits of the Planets

Planetary Structures: General Considerations

The Terrestrial Planets





The Major Planets





The Moon

Physical Characteristics of the Moon

Earth–Moon Interactions

Lunar and Solar Eclipses

Lunar Surface

Interior of the Moon

Lunar Magnetism

Some Indications of Lunar History

Moon Summary

Satellites and Rings

Types of Satellites

Satellites of Mars

Satellites of Jupiter

Satellites of Saturn

Satellites of Uranus

Satellites of Neptune

Ring Systems

General Observations


General Characteristics

Types of Asteroid Orbit

Distribution of Asteroid Orbits: Kirkwood Gaps

Compositions and Possible Origins of Asteroids

Comets and the Kuiper Belt

Types of Comet Orbit

Physical Structure of Comets

Oort Cloud

Kuiper Belt



Stony Meteorites

Stony Irons

Iron Meteorites

Ages of Meteorites

Isotopic Anomalies in Meteorites

Dust in the Solar System

Meteor Showers

Zodiacal Light and Gegenschein

Radiation Pressure and the Poynting–Robertson Effect

Theories of the Origin and Evolution of the Solar System

Coarse Structure of the Solar System

Distribution of Angular Momentum

Other Features of the Solar System

Laplace Nebula Theory

Jeans’ Tidal Theory

Solar Nebula Theory

Capture Theory

Ideas on the Evolution of the Solar System

Planetary Collision

Earth and Venus

Asteroids, Comets, Meteorites, and Dwarf Planets

Origin of the Moon

Mars and Mercury

Neptune, Triton, Pluto and Charon

Isotopic Anomalies in Meteorites

General Comments on a Planetary Collision

Appendix A: Electromagnetic Radiation: Detecting Atoms, Ions, Molecules, and Radicals

Appendix B: Basic Mineralogy

Appendix C: Geochronology: Radioactive Dating

Appendix D: Virial Theorem

Appendix E: Jeans’ Critical Mass

Appendix F: Free-Fall Collapse

Appendix G: Evolution of Protostars

Appendix H: Equilibrium of Stars on the Main Sequence

Appendix I: Energy Production in Stars

Appendix J: Evolution of Stars away from the Main Sequence

Appendix K: White Dwarfs, Neutron Stars, and Black Holes

Appendix L: Exoplanets: Planets around Other Stars

Appendix M: Solar System Studies to the Beginning of the Seventeenth Century

Appendix N: Newton, Kepler’s Laws, and Solar-System Dynamics

Appendix O: Formation of Commensurate Planetary Orbits

Appendix P: Atmosphere of the Earth

Appendix Q: Physics of Planetary Interiors

Appendix R: Transfer of Heat

Appendix S: Seismology: The Interior of the Earth

Appendix T: Moments of Inertia

Appendix U: Gravitational Field of a Distorted Planet

Appendix V: Precession of the Earth’s Spin Axis

Appendix W: Intrinsic Planetary Magnetism

Appendix X: Magnetic Interactions between Planet and Star

Appendix Y: Planetary Albedos

Appendix Z: Physics of Tides

Appendix AA: Darwin’s Theory of Lunar Origin

Appendix AB: Roche Limit and Satellite Disruption

Appendix AC: Tidal Heating of Io

Appendix AD: Ram Pressure of a Gas Stream

Appendix AE: Trojan Asteroids

Appendix AF: Heating by Accretion

Appendix AG: Perturbations of the Oort Cloud

Appendix AH: Radiation Pressure and the Poynting–Robertson Effect

Appendix AI: Analyses Associated with the Jeans’ Tidal Theory

Appendix AJ: Viscous-Disk Mechanism for the Transfer of Angular Momentum

Appendix AK: Magnetic Braking of the Spinning Sun

Appendix AL: Safronov Theory of Planet Formation

Appendix AM: Eddington Accretion Mechanism

Appendix AN: Life on Earth: And Elsewhere?

Appendix AO: Global Warming

Appendix AP: Migration of Planetary Orbits

Appendix AQ: Interactions in an Embedded Cluster

Program TIDE


Physical Constants and Useful Data



Problems appear at the end of each chapter.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Astrophysics & Space Science
SCIENCE / Earth Sciences / General