Other Suns, Other Worlds?: The Search for Extra Solar Planetary Systems

Overview

Recent announcements of the discovery of extrasolar planetary systems have made headlines worldwide. But the belief in and search for other worlds dates back almost to the beginning of recorded history. Since the time of the ancient Greek philosophers, many of history's greatest thinkers have argued that our planetary system cannot be the only one in the universe. Mammana and McCarthy, both working astronomers, recount and explain the history of the search for other planets, explore the technological means by ...
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Overview

Recent announcements of the discovery of extrasolar planetary systems have made headlines worldwide. But the belief in and search for other worlds dates back almost to the beginning of recorded history. Since the time of the ancient Greek philosophers, many of history's greatest thinkers have argued that our planetary system cannot be the only one in the universe. Mammana and McCarthy, both working astronomers, recount and explain the history of the search for other planets, explore the technological means by which the search has been and continues to be conducted, and show the impact that this search, the holy grail of astronomy, has had on the way that humanity perceives the cosmos.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The universe extends over an almost immeasurably large extent and contains an innumerable number of stars. Yet through all this space, we know of only one place that supports intelligent life, indeed, only one place that supports any life. Is it conceivable that this vast immensity was created only for us? Most scientists believe that there must be life elsewhere. To have life as we recognize it, there must first be planets circling some of those stars. This book by two astronomers recounts the history of the physical difficulties, technological improvements, and significant advances in search techniques developed by astronomers trying to find these elusive other worlds. The task is a formidable one, and, sadly, the record is one of many false alarms and no unequivocal successes to date. However, if you would like to know just where we stand in trying to answer the questions, "Are we alone?" you will enjoy this book. For popular science collections.-Harold D. Shane, Baruch College, CUNY
Kirkus Reviews
The search for planets around other suns is one of the most daunting tasks astronomers have tackled; here two astronomers sum up the progress to date.

Mammana (Fleet Space Theater, San Diego) and McCarthy (Univ. of Arizona) build their discussion around a brief history of their discipline, beginning with the Greek philosophers, who accepted the plurality of worlds as a given. With the gradual improvement of modern astronomical instruments, the true magnitude of the universe became known and the question became not whether there were planets around other stars, but when someone would detect one. In 1963, Peter Van de Kamp of Swarthmore was the first to claim identification of an extrasolar planet, based on three decades of measurements of the position of Barnard's Star. Fellow astronomers failed to duplicate his data, but there were plenty of others on the trail. McCarthy announced his own discovery in 1984: a companion to an extremely faint star known as VB8. Debate raged over whether the companion was a planet like Jupiter or a so-called "brown dwarf"—an object just below stellar size but with orders of magnitude larger than any known planet. Disks of diffuse material, of the sort from which planetary systems are believed to form, have been detected around a number of stars. The Hubble Space Telescope and a new generation of ground-based scopes have pushed the observational frontiers farther out; and several astronomers are lobbying for even larger instruments, based either in space or on the moon, where observing conditions will be far better than on Earth. A new wave of discoveries—too recent for the authors to address them—seems to have made a firm case for the existence of planets around at least two other stars.

A somewhat dry but workmanlike survey of its subject, with interesting sidelights on astronomers and their equipment.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312140212
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.55 (h) x 1.03 (d)

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