jrasc june 1998 final - The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

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jrasc june 1998 final - The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

Atlas of Venus, by Peter Cattermoleand Patrick Moore, pages xv + 143;22.5 28.5 cm, Cambridge UniversityPress, 1997. Price US $29.95 hardcover.ISBN 0–521–49652–7A recent brief review in a popularastronomy magazine described thisbook as “more than an atlas.” Thereviewer meant that the “atlas”contained not just maps but also an excellent summary of theexploration and geology of the planet. I take the opposite view:this is “less than an atlas.” It does contain a very good summaryof our knowledge of Venus and its exploration, but it is sadlydeficient in maps. As such its title is misleading.That said, the book is more than adequate as an introductionto the planet. Three initial chapters describe observations ofVenus in ancient times and in the telescopic era, from themythology of various cultures to pre-space-age speculation onthe nature of the planet’s surface. Three more chapters recountthe exploration of Venus by spacecraft. All these introductorychapters are well written, concise and thorough, though thetreatment of synthetic aperture radar imaging is rather weak.Most of the remainder of the book is devoted to the geology ofVenus. The plains, volcanoes, craters and uplands are describedand well-illustrated with many Magellan radar mosaics. Passingquickly over the one page Chapter 12, in which we learn thatastronomy from the surface of Venus would be difficult, weencounter a series of appendices containing basic informationconcerning the planet and its exploration. The largest of these,25 pages long, is a list of Venusian place names and theirmeanings.The book is presented in a manner that should be accessibleto amateur astronomers or students in introductory-levelcourses. The jargon of modern space science, a mix of astronomyand geology, is not so obtrusive as to be much of a problem,though it does appear in places and is not always properlyexplained. There is no glossary. For instance the geological term“facies,” meaning variations from place to place within a singlelayer of rock, is used to refer to crater ejecta on page 82 withoutany explanation, and in fact is misused as if it were merely asynonym of “deposits.” This problem is mostly found in thegeological section of the book, which is a simplified version ofa longer and more technical text by the first author. A glossarywould have helped. The map of spacecraft landing sites on page38 is incomplete and far too small to be useful.The cartographers of the U.S. Geological Survey havemapped many worlds in detail, and Venus will soon be addedto the list, but their Magellan-based maps of Venus are still “inpress” and were not available for the atlas. In their place arevarious small illustrations culled from the scientific literature,useful but not extensive or systematic enough to warrant thetitle “Atlas,” and one set of globe-spanning images. These arebeautiful, and some readers may recognize them as being thebasis for a globe of Venus currently available through a popularastronomy magazine. They combine a black and whiterepresentation of the global Magellan radar mosaic, showingcraters, hills, lava flows and so on, and colour-coded elevations.Blue is low, pink and white high. They portray the world in sixmutually perpendicular views, very attractive but too small tobe very useful. A few place names are added, but not many, andthe absence of a latitude-longitude grid means that the namesin the appendix cannot be associated with features on the maps.The names that are given are not easy to associate with a specificfeature — the name “Lada Terra” is not placed on Lada Terra,and which crater is Stuart? The lack of a colour key for elevationsis reprehensible. I would have used the six views to give a globaloverview of the planet, with colour key and better name placement,and then enlarged the central portion of each to fill a two-pagespread for a detailed portrayal of topography, place names andspacecraft landing sites. With that addition the book couldjustifiably be called an atlas. I recommend this book as anadequate, not-too-technical description of Venus, suitable formany libraries and interested individuals, but we still await agood atlas.Philip StookePhilip Stooke is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geographyat the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. His researchinterests include the history of planetary cartography, planetarygeology, and asteroid mapping techniques.June/juin 1998 JRASC167

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