Sometimes, especially when looking at Goddard Space Flight Center’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, I really regret not becoming an astronomer. There’s something magical about the sky, and (of course) I find the sheer scale and beauty of the universe as a whole fascinating and awe-inspiring and humbling. It’s heady stuff.
This book heavily rekindles that feeling. Dr. Brown’s descriptions of the emotional impact of scanning the night sky looking for faint wandering objects really hits the buried astronomer part of my psyche and makes me long for a what-if version of my life to play out a career of peering through telescopes attempting to discern the mysteries of the cosmos.
He never gets too technical (or very technical at all: the one or two asides that he makes to make sure the reader knows what he’s talking about are all at roughly middle-school level), but instead focuses on the personal-interest side of his story. And it’s to good effect. This book reminds me of nothing so much as "The Cuckoo’s Egg" by Cliff Stoll (who, incidentally, is *also* an astronomer). It’s just a great and entertaining read.
The only downside is that he spends a lot of time talking about his young daughter who was born during the events of this tale. I can certainly understand the urge of a father to talk endlessly about his kid: but it certainly seems like something that an editor should have cut out of a book about Pluto. So, those bits tended to lag.
But, other than that, this is a fantastic look at one of the few scientific topics to really grip the public imagination (Neil deGrasse Tyson says he still has people asking him why Pluto’s not a planet any longer). It’s a light and easy read that I can recommend without reservation.