Life Outside the Solar System

Explore the history of humankind’s search for extraterrestrial life in this week’s Review of the Week

Planet hunters : the search for extraterrestrial life

Ellerbroek, Lucas. tr. by Andy Brown. Reaktion Books, 2017
267p bibl index, 9781780238142 $27.00, 9781780238784

Planet hunters : the search for extraterrestrial life Book cover

From the burning of Giordano Bruno in 1600 for stating the universe was infinite to the launching of the Kepler satellite in 2009, this book recounts the search for planets outside the Solar System, known as exoplanets. Ellerbroek (Univ. of Amsterdam, the Netherlands) blends history and personal interviews with today’s leading researchers, resulting in a uniquely personable approach that does not skimp on science. Ellerbroek’s interview subjects relate the various techniques they use to identify planets outside the Solar System: for example, locating the ‘wobble’ in the orbit of a star caused by a massive planet orbiting it, or the periodic fluctuation in a star’s brightness as a planet passes in front of it. Since its launch, NASA says the Kepler satellite has confirmed 3,532 exoplanets and 4,496 other candidates. It is likely that countless more exist around the stars in the Milky Way alone. This is an excellent read for anyone interested in exoplanet research and the astronomers who pursue it. A thorough list of references and chapter bibliographies provide direction for serious readers, though the text is accessible enough for the general reader as well.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers.
Reviewer: C. G. Wood, Eastern Maine Community College
Subject: Science & Technology – Astronautics & Astronomy
Choice Issue: Jun 2018