In Strange New Worlds, renowned astronomer Ray Jayawardhana brings news from the front lines of the epic quest to find planets--and alien life--beyond our solar system. Only in the past two decades, after millennia of speculation, have astronomers begun to discover planets around other stars--thousands in fact. Now they are closer than ever to unraveling distant twins of the Earth. In this book, Jayawardhana vividly recounts the stories of the scientists and the remarkable breakthroughs that have ushered in this extraordinary age of exploration. He describes the latest findings--including his own--that are challenging our view of the cosmos and casting new light on the origins and evolution of planets and planetary systems. He reveals how technology is rapidly advancing to support direct observations of Jupiter-like gas giants and super-Earths--rocky planets with several times the mass of our own planet--and how astronomers use biomarkers to seek possible life on other worlds.
Strange New Worlds provides an insider's look at the cutting-edge science of today's planet hunters, our prospects for discovering alien life, and the debates and controversies at the forefront of extrasolar-planet research.
In a new afterword, Jayawardhana explains some of the most recent developments as we search for the first clues of life on other planets.
"Anyone scanning the shelves today to learn about such urgent news from the universe should go directly to 'J' and take down Ray Jayawardhana's Strange New Worlds. It begins with early speculation by ancient thinkers but moves quickly to a series of seemingly promising discoveries, beginning 160 years ago, that raised researchers' hopes only to frustrate them. . . . [R]eading Strange New Worlds, I felt the thrill of briefly sharing in the efforts of these planet-seeking scientists and seeing the universe through their eyes."--Mike Brown, Wall Street Journal
"He takes the reader on a four-century-long scientific quest to discover our place in the universe, beginning with the Copernican hypothesis and Galileo's discovery of four of Jupiter's planets. . . . An exciting, highly readable glimpse into a discovery that could have broad scientific and cultural implications."--PublishersWeekly.com (starred review)
"In Strange New Worlds, astronomer and one-time journalist Ray Jayawardhana surveys how 15 years of exoplanet discovery has changed astrophysics. . . . Jayawardhana's presentation of the research is remarkably even-handed. This is a fast-moving field in which groups have often clashed. Nonetheless, he provides a survey of the subject without giving the protagonists anything to complain about. His lucid and effortless prose makes for an engaging read."--Chris Tinney, Nature
"With the seemingly endless stream of news about discoveries of alien planets, it's easy to forget that just 20 years ago exoplanets were no more than theoretical possibilities. Now astronomer Ray Jayawardhana tells the story of how the dramatic hunt has unfolded, from the early days of stellar astronomy to present-day speculation about life outside our solar system."--New Scientist
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1 Quest for Other Worlds - The Exciting Times We Live In 1
Chapter 2 Planets from Dust- Unraveling the Birth of Solar Systems 16
Chapter 3 A Wobbly Start - False Starts and Death Star Planets 46
Chapter 4 Planet Bounty - Hot Jupiters and Other Surprises 67
Chapter 5 Flickers and Shadows - More Ways to Find Planets 94
Chapter 6 Blurring Boundaries - Neither Stars nor Planets 123
Chapter 7 A Picture's Worth - Images of Distant Worlds 149
Chapter 8 Alien Earths - In Search of Wet, Rocky Habitats 172
Chapter 9 Signs of Life - How Will We Find E.T.? 203
Selected Bibliography 239
Afterword to the Paperback Edition 245
About the Author 265
Paperback: Not for sale in Canada