Review Article | Published:

The four hundred years of planetary science since Galileo and Kepler

Nature volume 466, pages 575584 (29 July 2010) | Download Citation

Abstract

For 350 years after Galileo’s discoveries, ground-based telescopes and theoretical modelling furnished everything we knew about the Sun’s planetary retinue. Over the past five decades, however, spacecraft visits to many targets transformed these early notions, revealing the diversity of Solar System bodies and displaying active planetary processes at work. Violent events have punctuated the histories of many planets and satellites, changing them substantially since their birth. Contemporary knowledge has finally allowed testable models of the Solar System’s origin to be developed and potential abodes for extraterrestrial life to be explored. Future planetary research should involve focused studies of selected targets, including exoplanets.

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Acknowledgements

B. Byington, J. K. Burns, C. R. Chapman, D. P. Cruikshank, M. M. Hedman, T. Owen, D. Tamayo, P. C. Thomas, M. S. Tiscareno and especially Jeffrey N. Cuzzi provided advice on previous drafts of the manuscript. I thank the Isaac Newton Institute of the University of Cambridge, where this article was principally written, for its hospitality. Figures 1a, 2a, 3a, 4a, 5a, 6a, 7a and 8a are provided courtesy of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University.

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  1. Department of Astronomy and College of Engineering, 328 Space Sciences Building, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-6801, USA

    • Joseph A. Burns

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The author declares no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Joseph A. Burns.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature09215

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