Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life beyond Our Solar System

Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life beyond Our Solar System

Ray Jayawardhana

Language: English

Pages: 280

ISBN: 069115807X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In Strange New Worlds, renowned astronomer Ray Jayawardhana brings news from the front lines of the epic quest to find planets--and alien life--beyond our solar system. Only in the past two decades, after millennia of speculation, have astronomers begun to discover planets around other stars--thousands in fact. Now they are closer than ever to unraveling distant twins of the Earth. In this book, Jayawardhana vividly recounts the stories of the scientists and the remarkable breakthroughs that have ushered in this extraordinary age of exploration. He describes the latest findings--including his own--that are challenging our view of the cosmos and casting new light on the origins and evolution of planets and planetary systems. He reveals how technology is rapidly advancing to support direct observations of Jupiter-like gas giants and super-Earths--rocky planets with several times the mass of our own planet--and how astronomers use biomarkers to seek possible life on other worlds.

Strange New Worlds provides an insider's look at the cutting-edge science of today's planet hunters, our prospects for discovering alien life, and the debates and controversies at the forefront of extrasolar-planet research.

In a new afterword, Jayawardhana explains some of the most recent developments as we search for the first clues of life on other planets.

New Eyes on the Sun: A Guide to Satellite Images and Amateur Observation (Astronomers' Universe)


Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

Coming of Age in the Milky Way

Hunting and Imaging Comets (Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series)

Astronomically Speaking: A Dictionary of Quotations on Astronomy and Physics
















The headline “Revolution in Science—Einstein versus Newton.” Two days later, the New York Times declared, “Lights All Askew in the Heavens—Einstein Theory Triumphs.” The legend of the superstar scientist was born. Einstein went on to show theoretically that if two stars were to line up exactly, as seen by an observer on Earth, the nearer one would act as a lens magnifying the light from the more distant star, making the latter appear much brighter than usual temporarily. It was an unlikely.

Grew up. But, during college, Basri realized that his true passion lay in astronomy. He studied magnetic activity on stars for his PhD thesis at the University of Colorado, went to Berkeley for a postdoctoral fellowship, and stayed on as a faculty member. Basri was focusing on young stars and their accretion disks when a paper by three Spanish astronomers based in the Canary Islands caught his attention in 1992. The researchers, led by Rafael Rebolo, proposed a clever new method—the lithium.

Contradicts ejection through dynamical encounters, which would surely have torn these loosely bound pairs apart. It’s still possible that some brown dwarfs are ejected from their natal clouds. But the current evidence suggests that the majority are born in situ. That is good news for planet formation: if close encounters are rare in newborn star clusters, stellar disks would not often be disrupted either and would live long enough for planet building. Bottom Scratching The famous twin.

Seen rapid progress. Throughout that period, the director of Ames supported Borucki’s fedgling enterprise with his discretionary fund. “People would say it is an impossible dream, that I was mistaken. But I was able to get enough funding to continue,” Borucki said. By 1992, Borucki was ready to present his concept for a space telescope, dubbed FRESIP for Frequency of Earth-Sized Inner Planets, to the space agency. Two years later, he and his collaborators submitted a formal proposal to NASA’s.

“For those, people will lean more on the transits themselves,” said Fischer. “The concern is how high or low the false alarm rate will be,” Stephane Udry from the Geneva Observatory told me. “With precise photometry from space, it may be possible to rule out a lot of false positives and build confdence,” he added. In the end, many researchers expect Kepler to produce a handful of near Earth-twin detections and many more likely candidates. The latter’s confrmation may have to await the next.

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