|Author||Henrik Beuther and Ralf S. Klessen|
As a vehicle for propelling forward new discoveries on stars, planets, and their origins, this latest volume in the Space Science Series is an indispensable resource for both current scientists and new students in astronomy, astrophysics, planetary science, and the study of meteorites. " Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin""
In 1978, dedicated astrophysicists convened a conference to discuss theories and observations related to the formation of solar systems. Although many were studying aspect of the problem (giant interstellar molecular clouds; protostellar disks; planet/satellite formation), unfortunately these studies were mainly stovepiped. Theoreticians weren't talking to observers. Solar scientists weren't talking to scientists observing stellar nurseries in Orion and elsewhere. This conference was such a smashing success that it has since spawned 5 follow-up conferences [II, III, IV, V and most recently VI] every 5 to 7 years, with more to come.
This book is the latest. It contains papers on 38 topics associated with star- and planet-formation, grouped into 4 major headings:
(1) molecular clouds, star formation, and associated behaviors and physical properties; (2) the formation and evolution of protoplanetary disks, which eventually yield planets and their moons; (3) planet formation; and (4) signs of life for exoplanets (what astronomers look for in exoplanet spectra and behavior).
Each paper is about 20 pages long, plus 2 - 3 pages of references for further study. It addresses the latest in what is known; how observations agree [or don't] with theory; what we'd like to know on the topic; and what plans for the future are - both in theory, and in observations and space missions to resolve current questions and discriminate between various theories. Even after the conference, the authors spend 18 months to update their conference presentations, read the other papers and revise their own papers to align with [or at least cite open issues] from the other papers, etc.
So this book, which just came out in December 2014, is the latest word on these topics in astronomy. It provides an excellent synthesis of this body of knowledge, and documents the great strides of progress and intercommunication that have been made since Protostars and Planets [I], the conference notes from the original 1978 conference which kicked off this excellent series.
It's not a quick read [I'm about 1/2 way through]; but it's a rewarding one.