From Dust to Life: The Origin and Evolution of Our Solar System

Princeton University Press

By John Chambers, Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington DC and Jacqueline Mitton, Cambridge UK

Dust to Life Origin Evolution Solar System John Chambers Jacqueline Mitton ISBN 9780691145228

From Dust to Life The birth and evolution of our solar system is a tantalizing mystery that may one day provide answers to the question of human origins. This book tells the remarkable story of how the celestial objects that make up the solar system arose from common beginnings billions of years ago, and how scientists and philosophers have sought to unravel this mystery down through the centuries, piecing together the clues that enabled them to deduce the solar system's layout, its age, and the most likely way it formed.

Drawing on the history of astronomy and the latest findings in astrophysics and the planetary sciences, John Chambers and Jacqueline Mitton offer the most up-to-date and authoritative treatment of the subject available. They examine how the evolving universe set the stage for the appearance of our Sun, and how the nebulous cloud of gas and dust that accompanied the young Sun eventually became the planets, comets, moons, and asteroids that exist today. They explore how each of the planets acquired its unique characteristics, why some are rocky and others gaseous, and why one planet in particular--our Earth--provided an almost perfect haven for the emergence of life.

From Dust to Life is a must-read for anyone who desires to know more about how the solar system came to be. This enticing book takes readers to the very frontiers of modern research, engaging with the latest controversies and debates. It reveals how ongoing discoveries of far-distant extrasolar planets and planetary systems are transforming our understanding of our own solar system's astonishing history and its possible fate.

John Chambers is a planetary scientist in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution for Science. Jacqueline Mitton is a writer, editor, and media consultant in astronomy. Her books include Titan Unveiled: Saturn's Mysterious Moon Explored (Princeton).


"As an astrophysicist credentialed in the days before the space era, I figured reading another book on the solar system would be a big yawn. Surprise! I couldn't have been more wrong! Here is an eye-opening up-to-date reconnaissance of what's in our part of the universe and how it has evolved. Along the way, this arresting account reveals how unique our planetary system really is."Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

"It provides a truly comprehensive overview of our solar system's origins and is written in plain, jargon-free language."--Marcus Chown, New Scientist

Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe


By Jeremiah P. Ostriker, Princeton University, and Simon Mitton, St Edmund's College, University of Cambridge

Heart of Darkness, Ostriker, J. P. and Mitton, S.ISBN: 9780691134307 book jacket

Heart of Darkness describes the incredible saga of humankind's quest to unravel the deepest secrets of the universe. Over the past thirty years, scientists have learned that two little-understood components--dark matter and dark energy--comprise most of the known cosmos, explain the growth of all cosmic structure, and hold the key to the universe's fate. The story of how evidence for the so-called "Lambda-Cold Dark Matter" model of cosmology has been gathered by generations of scientists throughout the world is told here by one of the pioneers of the field, Jeremiah Ostriker, and his coauthor Simon Mitton.

From humankind's early attempts to comprehend Earth's place in the solar system, to astronomers' exploration of the Milky Way galaxy and the realm of the nebulae beyond, to the detection of the primordial fluctuations of energy from which all subsequent structure developed, this book explains the physics and the history of how the current model of our universe arose and has passed every test hurled at it by the skeptics. Throughout this rich story, an essential theme is emphasized: how three aspects of rational inquiry--the application of direct measurement and observation, the introduction of mathematical modeling, and the requirement that hypotheses should be testable and verifiable--guide scientific progress and underpin our modern cosmological paradigm.

The story is far from complete, however, as scientists confront the mysteries of the ultimate causes of cosmic structure formation and the real nature and origin of dark matter and dark energy.


"In this stimulating study, the Princeton astrophysics professor and the University of Cambridge scholar offer a compelling insider's take on how astronomers have worked to reveal the mystery that is our universe. . . . Ostriker and Mitton's knowledge is vast, and while they acknowledge that our understanding of the universe is far from complete, this thought-provoking presentation is as accessible as it is exciting."--Publishers Weekly

"Jeremiah Ostriker and science historian Simon Mitton seamlessly blend historical narrative with lucid scientific explication, from the deeps of classical time to the data-fuelled hyperdrive of the past 50 years."--Nature

"A lucid history of cosmology. . . . With infectious enthusiasm, diagrams and even a little high school math, the authors deliver the available answers along with the increasing confusion. A fine introduction to cosmology but rich enough to inform readers familiar with introductions."--Kirkus Reviews

"This is a strong, confident book, easily one of the best guides to why cosmologists make the claims they do."--New Scientist

Georges Lemaître: Life, Science and Legacy

Springer Series: Astrophysics and Space Science Library, Vol. 395

Edited by Rodney D. Holder and Simon Mitton, St Edmund's College, University of Cambridge

Georges Lemaître biography astronomer cosmologist priest book jacket

This book offers the best scholarly account in English of George Lemaître’s life and work. It will be appreciated by professionals and graduate students interested in the history of cosmology.

The year 2011 marked the 80th anniversary of Georges Lemaître’s primeval atom model of the universe, forerunner of the modern day Big Bang theory. Prompted by this momentous anniversary the Royal Astronomical Society decided to publish a volume of essays on the life, work and faith of this great cosmologist, who was also a Roman Catholic priest. The papers presented in this book examine in detail the historical, cosmological, philosophical and theological issues surrounding the development of the Big Bang theory from its beginnings in the pioneering work of Lemaître through to the modern day.

Topics include Anthropic Fine-tuning - History of Cosmology - Invention of Big Bang Theory - Multiverse - Primeval-atom Universe - Quantum Universe - Science Religion Discussion - Scientific Ideas of Georges Lemaître

  • Examines in detail the historical, cosmological, philosophical and theological issues surrounding the development of the Big Bang theory from its beginnings in the pioneering work of Lemaître through to the modern day
  • Chapters written by renowned cosmologists, philosophers and theologians
  • With a Foreword by Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal

Taking the Back Off the Watch: A Personal Memoir by Thomas Gold

Springer Series: Astrophysics and Space Science Library, Vol. 381

Written by professor Thomas Gold FRS, Cornell University, and edited by Simon Mitton, University of Cambridge

Thomas Gold biography astronomer book jacket

This is the definitive life story of one of the greatest astronomers of the later twentieth century

Thomas Gold (1920-2004) had a curious mind that liked to solve problems. He was one of the most remarkable astrophysicists in the second half of the twentieth century, and he attracted controversy throughout his career. Based on a full-length autobiography left behind by Thomas Gold, this book was edited by the astrophysicist and historian of science, Simon Mitton.

Gold fled Vienna in 1933, eventually settling in England and completing an engineering degree at Trinity College in Cambridge. During the war, he worked on naval radar research alongside Fred Hoyle and Hermann Bondi – which, in an unlikely chain of events, eventually led to his working with them on steady-state cosmology. In 1968, shortly after their discovery, he provided the explanation of pulsars as rotating neutron stars.

In his final position at Cornell, he and his colleagues persuaded the US Defense Department to fund the conversion of the ionospheric telescope at Arecibo in Puerto Rico into a superb instrument for radio astronomy. Gold’s interests covered physiology, astronomy, cosmology, geophysics, and engineering.

Written in an intriguing style and with an equally intriguing Foreword by professor Freeman John Dyson FRS (1923–2020) of Princeton University, this book constitutes an important historical document, made accessible to all those interested in the history of science.

  • Enthralling life story of one of the most remarkable astrophysicists of the second half of the twentieth century who explained pulsars as rotating neutron stars
  • With intriguing anecdotes revealing Gold’s scientific curiosity and deep understanding of physics
  • Gold's prescient thoughts on the hot deep biosphere, dismissed in their time the product of an over active imagination, have at last become main stream with the actual discovery of an enormous deep biosphere with a mass comparable to that of the biosphere at the surface. These new development's feature in Simon Mitton's history of deep carbon science, From Core to Crust (Cambridge University Press).
  • Meticulously edited by the author of the biography of Sir Fred Hoyle
  • With a Foreword by Freeman Dyson

Fred Hoyle A Life in Science


by Simon Mitton, University of Cambridge

Fred Hoyle astronomer book jacket 2011

The scientific life of Fred Hoyle (1915–2001) was truly unparalleled. During his career he wrote groundbreaking scientific papers and caused bitter disputes in the scientific community with his revolutionary theories. Hoyle is best known for showing that we are all, literally, made of stardust in his paper explaining how carbon, and then all the heavier elements, were created by nuclear reactions inside stars. However, he constantly courted controversy and two years later he followed this with his 'steady state' theory of the universe. This challenged another model of the universe, which Hoyle called the 'big bang' theory. Fred Hoyle was also famous amongst the general public. He popularised his research through radio and television broadcasts and wrote best-selling novels. Written from personal accounts and interviews with Hoyle's contemporaries, this book gives valuable personal insights into Fred Hoyle and his unforgettable life.

First published in 2005 by Aurum Press, London, this re-issue is in paperback from Cambridge University Press

  • The only biographical account of Fred Hoyle written from personal knowledge
  • Focuses on Hoyle's contributions to science as an astronomer and public figure
  • A fascinating insight into the history of cosmology
  • Generously illustrated with many stunning images.

About the Author

Simon Mitton holds an MA in physics from the University of Oxford and a doctorate in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge. A distinguished writer on astronomy, he has had 12 books published. Asteroid 4027 was named 'Mitton' for Simon and his wife, the astronomer Jacqueline Mitton, by the International Astronomical Union in 1990.

Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations

by Jacqueline Mitton (author) and Christina Balit (illustrator)

Zoo in the Sky This international bestseller introduces young children to the amazing "zoo" in the sky. Featuring constellations named after animals, birds and fishes, this text introduces young children to animal constellations in the sky. Sky maps and an information spread on the night sky, stars and galaxies are also included.

A customer of Amazon posted this review

"What a beautiful book! The illustrations are some of the most bright and vivid that I have seen. The text is so very readable too and not so long that children would find it too much to take in. It describes some of the main constellations and well-known stars within them. It also describes which stars to look for by their colours and brightness, with useful hints on how to find them in relationship to the pole star and milky way. Boys in particular love finding out facts such as these and with this book you can encourage them to start really young. So keep them off the playstation and take them out to look at the stars for a bit of awe and wonder."

  • Five star rating on Amazon
  • Read the Amazon customer reviews
  • Over 130,000 copies sold 1998 - 2013
  • A beautiful Children's Gift Book to introduce the animal constellations in the night sky
  • Dazzling illustrations by Christina Balit

Buy the US edition from Amazon US

The Planet Gods: myths and facts about the Solar System

by Jacqueline Mitton (author) and Christina Balit (illustrator)

Kingdom of the Sun Children take a wondrous tour of our solar system in this stunning new book that weaves mythology and astronomy in magical ways. Jacqueline Mitton’s poetic text explores each planet, comparing its features to those of the Roman god or goddess for whom it was named. Although this naming occurred long before humans had accurate information about the planets, the book points out some remarkable coincidences based on what we know today. The veiled goddess Venus, for example, lends her name to a cloud-veiled planet. And the blue, stormy planet Neptune is named for the god of the sea. Christina Balit’s glorious illustrations, sparkling with gold-foil accents, bring the mythology to life and draw children into the wonders of our planetary kingdom. This intriguing and highly informative book—a sequel to the same team’s best-selling Zoo in the Sky—presents the most up-to-date, scientific details about the planets in an artful way that will stir the minds and imaginations of young readers.

  • Five star rating on Amazon
  • A beautiful Children's Gift Book to introduce the planets of our solar system
  • Dazzling illustrations by Christina Balit

Buy the US edition from Amazon US

Once Upon a Starry Night: A Book of Constellations

by Jacqueline Mitton (author) and Christina Balit (illustrator)

US Edition from National Geographic

Zoo in the Sky Here are the stories of 10 great constellations - from Perseus to Hercules, including Pegasus, Argo, Andromeda and Cassiopeia. Jacqueline Mitton sets contemporary fact against ancient legend; and Christina Balit portrays each constellation in loving detail. Drawing on the eternal lure of the universe, this makes an exciting introduction to the figures dominating our night sky.

Buy the US edition today from Amazon US

Cambridge Scientific Minds

by P.M. Harman (Editor), Simon Mitton (Editor)

Cambridge Scientific MindsSince the 'scientific revolution' of the seventeenth century, a great number of distinguished scientists and mathematicians have been associated with the University of Cambridge. Cambridge Scientific Minds provides a portrait of some of the most eminent scientists associated with the University over the past 400 years, including accounts of the work of three of the greatest figures in the entire history of science, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and James Clerk Maxwell. The chronological balance reflects the increasing importance of science in the recent history of the University. The book comprises personal memoirs and historical essays, including contributions by leading Cambridge scientists. Cambridge Scientific Minds will be of interest not only to graduates of the University, science students and historians of science, but to anyone wishing to gain an insight into some of the greatest scientific minds in history.

In print THIRTEEN YEARS, frequently reprints

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