In space and on Earth, scientists study asteroids in hopes of avoiding a disaster like the one that befell the dinosaurs.
In this latest title in the long-running series, the author of The Mighty Mars Rover (2012) introduces researchers investigating smaller solar-orbiting space rocks: asteroids. Opening with a gripping description of fourth-graders’ experience of an asteroid strike in Russia in 2013, she explains what and where asteroids are and how they threaten our planet. Subsequent chapters follow several scientists: meteorite hunters; an impact crater specialist who explores Meteor Crater near Flagstaff, Arizona; an astronomer who uses a major telescope in Arizona to look for unknown near-Earth asteroids; the (female) principle investigator for NASA’s Near Earth Object Wide Infrared Survey Explorer mission; and an Indian-American astronomer, also working in Arizona (and the only nonwhite scientist profiled), identifying the origin of meteorites. One, David Kring, is the man whose research led to the identification of the crater off Yucatan left by the asteroid that changed Earth’s climate, causing the extinction of 75 percent of plants and animals alive at the time, including dinosaurs. Rusch concludes with a short list of possible methods for dealing with an asteroid that actually threatens Earth and includes a long, useful list of books and websites for reader involvement and further research.
Lavishly illustrated with Anderson’s photographs, this wide-ranging sample of asteroid science presumes quite a bit of previous knowledge but will reward the enthusiast. (Nonfiction. 12-16)