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Exoplanets

Cover of Exoplanets

Exoplanets

Diamond Worlds, Super Earths, Pulsar Planets, and the New Search for Life Beyond Our Solar System
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The past few years have seen an incredible explosion in our knowledge of the universe. Since its 2009 launch, the Kepler satellite has discovered more than two thousand exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. More exoplanets are being discovered all the time, and even more remarkable than the sheer number of exoplanets is their variety. In Exoplanets, astronomer Michael Summers and physicist James Trefil explore these remarkable recent discoveries: planets revolving around pulsars, planets made of diamond, planets that are mostly water, and numerous rogue planets wandering through the emptiness of space. This captivating book reveals the latest discoveries and argues that the incredible richness and complexity we are finding necessitates a change in our questions and mental paradigms. In short, we have to change how we think about the universe and our place in it, because it is stranger and more interesting than we could have imagined.
The past few years have seen an incredible explosion in our knowledge of the universe. Since its 2009 launch, the Kepler satellite has discovered more than two thousand exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. More exoplanets are being discovered all the time, and even more remarkable than the sheer number of exoplanets is their variety. In Exoplanets, astronomer Michael Summers and physicist James Trefil explore these remarkable recent discoveries: planets revolving around pulsars, planets made of diamond, planets that are mostly water, and numerous rogue planets wandering through the emptiness of space. This captivating book reveals the latest discoveries and argues that the incredible richness and complexity we are finding necessitates a change in our questions and mental paradigms. In short, we have to change how we think about the universe and our place in it, because it is stranger and more interesting than we could have imagined.
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About the Author-
  • MICHAEL SUMMERS is a planetary scientist and professor of physics and astronomy at George Mason University. Since 1989, he has served on the mission teams of several NASA space probes in the role of science planning and interpretation of spacecraft observations. He is currently a coinvestigator on the NASA New Horizons mission to the Pluto-Charon double planet, where he serves as the deputy lead of the Atmospheres Theme Team. JAMES TREFIL is Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Physics at George Mason University. He has written more than 50 books on science for a general audience. His writing has won the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Westinghouse Science Journalism Award, and other honors.
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  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 2, 2017
    Readers tour several bizarre worlds in this slim read, as Summers and Trefil, professors of physics at George Mason University, show how “defining a ‘planet’ has been made significantly more difficult” in the exoplanet age. Astronomical investigations outside our celestial backyard are ripe with paradigm shifts because scientists suffered “the curse of the single example”: our solar system and carbon-based life. Detailed photos and illustrations aid “visits” to unusual worlds, including 55 Cancri e, where volcanoes spew liquid diamond; Kepler 186f, with its vast lagoons and black flora that absorb “what energy they can from the faint sun”; and a rogue planet wandering dark space, where any life “must see in the infrared” and be warmed by the planet’s core. The authors temper runaway imaginations with scientific uncertainties about each location, and they reexamine the Drake equation—used in the search for extraterrestrial life—in light of our current understanding of exosystem frequency and dynamics. Summers and Trefil write confidently and straightforwardly for lay readers, who will long ponder what planets circle other suns and the peculiar possibilities of life beyond our blue marble. Illus. Agent: Leslie Gardner, Artellus Ltd. (U.K.).

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Exoplanets
Exoplanets
Diamond Worlds, Super Earths, Pulsar Planets, and the New Search for Life Beyond Our Solar System
Michael E. Summers
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