Fire and Ice: The Volcanoes of the Solar System

Natalie Starkey. Bloomsbury Sigma, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-47296-036-8
Starkey (Catching Stardust), a geologist and cosmologist, breaks down what volcanoes can teach people about Earth and other planets in this fascinating tour of the solar system. The discovery of volcanoes on icy planets, Starkey writes, “forced scientists to reconsider volcano classification,” as the word volcano had typically conjured images of flowing rivers of red-hot lava and plumes of cloud and ash. This “classic” type, though, is skewed toward what volcanoes are like on Earth. On Pluto and on Saturn’s moon Titan, frosty ice volcanoes emit methane and ammonia. Starkey explains that the existence of volcanoes elsewhere in the solar system demonstrates that a planetary object is “alive” and geologically active, and explores the geology of volcanoes thoroughly, describing the origins of magma (which is molten or semi-molten rock, and not the same thing as lava), how volcanoes produce new land by extending coastlines or forming new islands, and the role they might play in a planet’s ecosystem (the gases they release on Earth helped create a life-supporting atmosphere). Along the way, Starkey takes readers on NASA’s expeditions, onto islands, and between tectonic plates undersea with vivid, immersive descriptions. The result is a thoroughly accessible look at a lesser-known part of the universe. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/23/2021
Release date: 09/28/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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