Simon & Schuster/TED: 3/14/17
digital review copy; 128 pages
Asteroid Hunters by Carrie Nugent is a highly recommended quick look at asteroids. This is the published version of a TED talk that would be a good choice for anyone interested in learning more about asteroids, from as young as age 10 to adult. This book could be the foundational inspiration for future asteroid hunters/researchers.
Nugent provides her information about asteroids in accessible easy to comprehend language. She covers what they are and where they come from, but also the bigger question: what would happen if one hit the Earth? We know they have hit the Earth in the past and many adults remember Shoemaker Levy 9 hitting Jupiter. Elementary school children will know that a meteorite was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. I think most people who are interested in asteroids will remember the meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk in Russia on February 15, 2013. There were numerous videos available online and they can still be found today with a quick search. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpmXyJrs7iU)
Nugent discusses the different telescopes used to find asteroids, including the infrared NEOWISE, the project on which she is working. "The successful hunt and mapping of asteroids could mean nothing less than saving life on earth." Most asteroids live in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and stay in a stable orbit. Why scientists are busy identifying those asteroids, they are also looking at any whose orbit takes them close to Earth. By the end of 2011, scientists had found "over 90 percent of asteroids bigger than one kilometer across that get close to Earth" and since then even more have been found. Asteroid hunters are continually searching for even smaller, but still potentially destructive asteroids.
This is a short, easy to read and follow look at Nugent's job as an asteroid hunter. As someone who has spent more than one night watching the sky during meteor showers I guess the one drawback for me was the lack of real pictures in the book. You don't forget seeing a fireball or an especially active shower. There are illustrations, probably made for the TED talk, but it would be nice to see some real photographs. This is especially true of some big events that I recall being in awe over - Shoemaker Levy 9 hitting Jupiter and the Chelyabinsk, Russia meteor.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.