Since the 1960’s we have looked at space and the worlds beyond our solar system as the “final frontier” for mankind. Without warp or FTL drives however, we’re stuck on or near Earth and turn to astronomy and astrobiology to boldly infer data that no man has ever seen before.
Ray Jayawardhana, a leading figure in astronomical research, takes us quickly through the history, challenges, and methodologies of our search for extrasolar planets and, ultimately, the search for life beyond our heliosphere.
Why is this on our bookshelf?
I found this book on display while walking through the library. “The search for alien planets” on the cover caught my eye. A quick check of the copyright (2011) to ensure it wasn’t out of date, and it was mine. It probably helped that the book title quotes the introductory monologue in every Star Trek episode.
Space, though, serves a bigger purpose. Every achievement we make is an inspiration for science, technology, and humanity itself. A book that promises to share some of that passion is irresistible.
Rating (2 stars)
Unfortunately, the book didn’t share much in the way of inspiration. In fact, it didn’t impart much passion either. It was written dryly, as you might expect a research paper to be written. It went out of it’s way to give credit to all people, teams, organizations, telescopes, budget committees, grant giving committees, and any other interested party. It simultaneously gets mired in technicalities in some areas while glossing over others.
As with many books, this one probably could have benefited from stronger editing.
Finally, in a book about the search for “alien planets,” you might expect a healthy dose of reading about the search for “aliens on other planets.” Unfortunately, astrobiology is a very new field and since we haven’t actually discovered life, there isn’t much to talk about. Only one chapter, fittingly at the end, is devoted to the topic.
Read this book:
You are a research astronomer and want to feel good knowing that there are books about your field of research.
Don't Read this book:
You want to learn about the hunt for extraterrestrial life.
Once you're done, do this:
Watch this video from Neil deGrasse Tyson: We stopped dreaming.