Cloth $27.00 ISBN: 9781780238142 Published October 2017 For sale in North and South America only

Planet Hunters

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Lucas Ellerbroek

Planet Hunters

Lucas Ellerbroek

Distributed for Reaktion Books

Translated by Andy Brown
248 pages | 3 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Cloth $27.00 ISBN: 9781780238142 Published October 2017 For sale in North and South America only
Astronomers are on the verge of answering one of our most profound questions: are we alone in the universe? The ability to detect life in remote solar systems is at last within sight, and its discovery—even if only in microbial form—would revolutionize our self-image. Planet Hunters is the rollicking tale of the search for extraterrestrial life and the history of an academic discipline.

Astronomer Lucas Ellerbroek takes readers on a fantastic voyage through space, time, history, and even to the future as he describes the field of exoplanet research, from the early ideas of sixteenth-century heretic Giordano Bruno to the discovery of the first exoplanet in 1995 to the invention of the Kepler Space Telescope. We join him on his travels as he meets with leading scientists in the field, including Michel Mayor, who discovered the first exoplanet, and Bill Borucki, principal investigator for NASA’s Kepler mission. Taken together, the experiences, passion, and perseverance of the scientists featured here make the book an exciting and compelling read.

Presenting cutting-edge research in a dynamic and accessible way, Planet Hunters is a refreshing look into a field where new discoveries come every week and paradigms shift every year.
 
Review Quotes
Nature
“In this delightful scientific chronicle of humanity’s quest for ‘other worlds’, astronomer Lucas Ellerbroek mixes memoir, history and meetings with remarkable planet hunters.”
Science
“Are we alone in the universe? In Planet Hunters, Lucas Ellerbroek traces the story of this question from its beginnings during the age of Copernicus and Galileo to the present day, teaching us the relevant science as he goes. Ellerbroek is particularly skilled at inserting the ‘astronomy backstory,’ giving accessible introductions to both historical ideas and cutting-edge research, and showing how big questions are teased into empirical science.”
Shelf Awareness
“Ellerbroek examines how the first astronomers gazed at the stars—with the naked eye and then with early telescopes—and shares their thoughts and discoveries. As he does, he provides great examples to help readers understand the immense distances in space and the difficulties inherent in studying the ‘wobbles’ of stars and planets so many millions of miles away. . . . Meticulous and well-researched, but not dull, Planet Hunters is infused with the enthusiasm of the many people who have devoted their lives to searching for a potential neighbor in the enormity of space.”
Unbound Worlds, Best Summer Books of 2017
“It seems as though we’re discovering new exoplanets regularly, but one thing we haven’t found yet is life on them (let’s be real: That is probably going to take a very long time). But that doesn’t mean we’re not looking. Astronomer Ellerbroek takes readers on a journey through the history of looking through telescopes and searching for exoplanets, discussing the discovery of the first in 1995. It’s the history of exoplanets and a search for alien life, speaking with some of the people at the frontiers of this field.”
Doris Elin Salazar | Space.com
Planet Hunters traces the history of exoplanet discovery back to a time when the idea of planets beyond our solar system was just science fiction—or heresy. Ellerbroek describes the field of exoplanet research in all its historical context, from Giordano Bruno's heretical burning at the stake for suggesting that stars had planets of their own, to Bill Borucki's dedication to making the Kepler mission a reality. By uncovering the centuries of courage and creativity it took to make revolutionary discoveries in astronomy, Ellerbroek hopes readers will feel less intimidated by the sciences and more encouraged to innovate.”
William J. Borucki, Kepler Principal Investigator, NASA Ames Research Center
Twenty years ago, humankind did not know whether most stars have planets or whether our Sun was unique with its array of orbiting planets. Today we know that most stars have planets (‘exoplanets’), many of the planets are Earth-size, and that there are billions of Earth-size planets orbiting in the habitable zone where life might evolve. Planet Hunters provides dozens of delightful (and sometimes humorous) histories of individuals who thought and wrote about planets and life around other stars before the recent discoveries provided facts. . . . Planet Hunters is both informative and a pleasure to read. I highly recommend it.”
Seth Shostak, senior astronomer, SETI Institute
“Two dozen years ago, we didn’t know of any planets beyond the ones orbiting our own Sun. Since then we’ve learned that planets are as common as roof tiles. Ellerbroek has written a captivating, up-close-and-personal chronicle of this remarkable burst of discovery. Millennia from now, when the twenty-first century is no more than a footnote, our era will still be notable because the scientists described here opened our eyes to a myriad worlds, and quite possibly, a myriad places where life exists.”
Michel Mayor, discoverer of the first exoplanet and emeritus professor of astrophysics, University of Geneva
“We are living in an exceptional epoch. Thanks to the development of technology, the ancient dreams of Greek philosophers have become an exciting field of modern astronomy. In this timely book, the characters who have participated in the discovery of these other worlds share their personal stories. Discoveries are made by individuals, thanks to their vision, enthusiasm, and perseverance, and also through friendship, collaboration, and competition. Planet Hunters is a lively fresco of that international endeavor.”
Jelle Brandt Corstius
“Ellerbroek is the Jacques Cousteau of the universe.”
Robbert Dijkgraaf, Institute for Advanced Study
“A compelling adventure full of surprising details that show why astronomy is so fascinating.”
NRC Handelsblad
“Ellerbroek describes this voyage of discovery with enthusiastic energy.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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