- Nine Planets has information about the planets and other bodies in the solar system. It's by an amateur, and is at a good level for amateurs or students of all ages. For each planet and many moons it has a page of qualitative (descriptive) information in plain English.
- If more details about the physical or orbital characteristics are needed, you can supplement with Wikipedia. It's worth double checking anything that sounds "iffy" since it is editable by anyone. I once had a student do a paper on the moon and her primary source was Wikipedia - unfortunately she visited the page on lunar craters in the middle of an edit war so she reported to me that the craters on the moon were caused by lightning strikes or alien weaponry (rather than asteroid impacts as is generally accepted).
- If you're just looking for general background information and to broaden your horizons, Earth and Sky is an NSF sponsored radio show that's played on some NPR stations. It covers lots of earth science as well as astronomy, and there's a nightly sky watching chart that's fun for beginners without a telescope.
- Bad Astronomy is poorly organized but aptly named: it's by a professional astronomer and sets out to debunk all the bad astronomy in the world, from astrology, to the Moon Landing Hoax conspiracy theory, to B-movies (think "The Core," "Armageddon"). Check out the Misconceptions and Movies sections to make sure you don't make any of the common mistakes.
- "The Cartoon Guide to Physics" by Larry Gonick, ISBN 0062731009
A full year of freshman algebra-based college physics in comic strip form. It uses examples from everyday life, and is recommended for everyone from laypeople to PhD holders.
- "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking
A must if you do go for FTL transit. Includes the Big Bang, inflation, relativity, and perhaps even the end of the universe.
- And anything by Larry Niven - besides being a compelling (sci-fi) writer, he also has superb physics.
25 July 2006
I was just asked through a friend for a list of reading recommendations for a hopeful sci-fi author intending to write about slower-than-light travel w/in the solar system. In case you're curious, here's my recommendations.