Dispatches from Planet 3 by Marcia BartusiakDispatches from Planet 3 by Marcia Bartusiak

Dispatches from Planet 3 by Marcia BartusiakDispatches from Planet 3: Thirty-Two (Brief) Tales on the Solar System, the Milky Way, and Beyond (2018), by Marcia Bartusiak, is a highly readable collection of wonderfully concise explorations of various topics in astronomy/astrophysics. Each essay is only a few pages long, making the science easily digestible while still informative. Topics include black holes, dark matter and dark energy, the Big Bang, inflation, relativity, and the multi-verse, to name just a few.

For an audience that doesn’t regularly read in this area, Dispatches from Planet 3 is a great introduction to the field thanks to the brevity and clarity of each piece, and the overall breadth of the collection as Bartusiak moves across time from, for instance, centuries-old discoveries to Lowell’s Mars canals to the most recent discoveries of exo-planets. For those who do read a lot of such books (I include myself in this category), while much of this will be familiar territory, some will be new, whether because the discovery is so recent or because Bartusiak digs up a rarely-told bit of information from well-trod ground.

Somewhat in that vein, one of the most welcome aspects of Dispatches from Planet 3 is how Bartusiak reclaims long overdue acknowledgement for several important figures — most of them women who were overlooked out of prejudice, but some who were simply lost to history. Among the ones who finally earn their due recognition amongst the general public are:

  • Jocelyn Bell, who in 1967 discovered the data “scruff” that turned out to be the first pulsar and whose name was left out when it came to the 1974 Nobel.
  • Beatrice Tinsley, one of the people largely responsible for determining that galaxies were not static objects, and whose career was cut brutally short by cancer at age 40.
  • Helen Payne, who downplayed/softened her outlier theory (based on her own calculations) that hydrogen was the most abundant element in the universe due to pressure from her professor (who, of course, later published a famous paper confirming her theory only a few years later once astronomical evidence had caught up to her math).
  • Vesto Slipher, the guy who actually did the grunt work of spectography/astral photography and observation that led to Hubble’s famed discovery that the universe was expanding (at a rate known as the Hubble Constant versus the Slipher Constant).

As an introduction to the major discoveries and theories of astrophysics in the past 100 years or so, Dispatches from Planet 3 makes for an excellent primer, with enough information, despite the concision of each piece, that one could happily stop there, but also engaging enough to convince a good number of its readers I would guess to continue with further, more in-depth reading.

Published in September 2018. An award-winning science writer presents a captivating collection of cosmological essays for the armchair astronomer. The galaxy, the multiverse, and the history of astronomy are explored in this engaging compilation of cosmological “tales” by multiple award†‘winning science writer Marcia Bartusiak. In thirty†‘two concise and engrossing essays, the author provides a deeper understanding of the nature of the universe and those who strive to uncover its mysteries. Bartusiak shares the back stories for many momentous astronomical discoveries, including the contributions of such pioneers as Beatrice Tinsley and her groundbreaking research in galactic evolution, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the scientist who first discovered radio pulsars. An endlessly fascinating collection that you can dip into in any order, these pieces will transport you to ancient Mars, when water flowed freely across its surface; to the collision of two black holes, a cosmological event that released fifty times more energy than was radiating from every star in the universe; and to the beginning of time itself.


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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