The Planets - Different Worlds

The theoretical study of planet and star formation began with eighteenth century philosopher Immanuel Kant and mathematician Simon de Laplace, two intellectuals who couldn't have been more different in their intellectual outlook if they tried. The scientific proof for their conjectures would only come centuries later with the advent of the space age, and it couldn't have happened, believe it or not, without the engineering feats made by the Nazis, and Werner von Braun in particular (place your mouse over this bubble to watch Tom Lehrer sing about von Braun).

After the end of the Second World War, and fueled by the nationalistic and paranoid ideology of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union fiercely competed to be the first to dominate space. Although we seemed to be ahead of the Ruskies for a while, launching Sputnik and sending the first man, Yuri Gagarin, to space kind of kicked our butts... Since the dawn of the space age, we have managed to send spacecraft to virtually all the major objects in the solar system, consistently revealing surprises and missing pieces in the fascinating puzzle of star formation.

Hungry for more? Check out

The Tenth Planet (and Neil deGrasse Tyson's hate mail),

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