Exoplanets: Diamond Worlds, Super Earths, Pulsar Planets, and the New Search for Life beyond Our Solar System

Exoplanets: Diamond Worlds, Super Earths, Pulsar Planets, and the New Search for Life beyond Our Solar System

by Michael Summers, James Trefil


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781588346254
Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
Publication date: 02/13/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 259,015
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

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.

Table of Contents

1 Not Your Grandfather's Galaxy 1

2 Our Backyard 14

3 A Plurality of Worlds 35

4 What Is a Planet? 49

5 The Kepler Spacecraft 63

6 55 Cancri E: Diamond World 79

7 Haven: Rogue Planet 91

8 Ice World 104

9 Kepler 186f: Super Earth, Archipelago World 116

10 Gliese 1214b: Water World 128

11 Life on Earth 140

12 The Search for Extraterrestrial Life 155

13 The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence 168

14 The Fermi Paradox 186

Epilogue 201

Index 206

Photography and Illustration Credits 218

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