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As a science fiction writer from that disciplines golden, pre-Moon landing era, you would expect a certain acquaintance with the stuff of astronomy - planets, moons, galaxies - but Asimov is so full of knowledge and passion with this subject (when is he not?) that you are truly staggered with the insights he delivers. His first obvious skill in life was with math, and he devotes several of these challenging essays to the subject of how a planet generally relates in size to its moon(s); how mass and gravity interplay and almost predictably determine how far a moon is from its primary. Earths moon is therefore explained to be quite puzzling and unique because by virtue of its size and distance, Earth should be vastly larger (or the moon vastly smaller) and further away. Asimov loves the art of taking a fully impossible scenario - for example, colonizing the INSIDE of planetoids and moons - and fully deploying a thorough mathematical analysis of how many people (trillions, it turns out) could call such places home if they had x amount of the stacked and subdivided interior space per person. His lengthy consideration of the hospitality of Jupiter to SOME form of life, based on a chemical analysis that actually has the planet much warmer than we might expect, is absorbing, as is his essay explaining how much of the gas giants have in atmosphere and how little they have (relative to the proportion we are familiar with on Earth) of a solid core - much more than a Tootsie Pops three licks to the chewy center. So our planetary system is explained with the equivalent of a slide rule and a compass, from every possible angle; our place in the Milky Way is given perspective; the lives and the relative brightnesses of stars are considered; novae and supernovae described (a nova occurs 7000 times more frequently than a supernova (in our own galaxy), or put another way (as Asimov unfailingly does), there are an average of only 3 supernovae per MILLENIUM in our Milky Way galaxy. How would a Milky Way supernova look to us? a vivid picture is given: dual shadows during the day - one from the sun and one from the supernova taking its moon-sized chunk of sky for a full month - and a night sky with what would appear to be two moons, equally bright.Asimov is so thorough in his investigation of the physical and magnetic properties of each of our planets that he was able to make this stunning prediction:...once we reach outward to explore other stellar systems we will discover (probably to our initial amazement) that about half the large planets we find will be equipped with rings after the fashion of Saturn.The essay that contained this prediction was published in May, 1963; Voyager 2 found rings on Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune when it visited between 1979 and 1989.

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