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Mirror Earth: The Search for Our Planet's Twin [Hardcover]

by Michael D. Lemonick
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 16, 2012 080277900X 978-0802779007 0
In the mid-1990s, astronomers made history when they detected three planets orbiting stars in the Milky Way. The planets were nothing like Earth, however: they were giant gas balls like Jupiter or Saturn. More than 500 planets have been found since then, yet none of them could support life.
Now, armed with more powerful technology, planet hunters are racing to find a true twin of Earth. Science writer Michael Lemonick has unique access to these exoplaneteers, as they call themselves, and Mirror Earth unveils their passionate quest. Geoff Marcy, at the University of California, Berkeley, is the world's most successful planet hunter, having found two of the first three extra-solar planets. Bill Borucki, at the NASA Ames Research Center, struggled for more than a decade to launch the Kepler mission-the only planet finder, human or machine, to beat Marcy's record. David Charbonneau, at Harvard, realized that Earths would be much easier to find if he looked at tiny stars called M-dwarfs rather than stars like the Sun-and that he could use backyard telescopes to find them!
Unlike those in other races, the competing scientists actually consult and cooperate with one another. But only one will be the first to find Earth's twin. Mirror Earth is poised narrate this historic event as the discovery is made.

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Editorial Reviews


"In Mirror Earth, Michael Lemonick describes what may be the single most important quest in science, the search for Earthlike planets around other stars—and thus for alien life itself.  He’s immersed himself in the science and in the personalities, the rivalries and dreams of the players, and accomplished a great piece of nonfiction writing. I love this book and love the quest."—Richard Preston

"As a science writer, I was thrilled by Mirror Earth's account of cutting edge astronomical research and discovery. As a twin, I was moved by this touching and poignant tale of humanity's yearning for cosmic companionship."—Margaret Wertheim, author of Pythagoras' Trousers and Physics on the Fringe

"Leave it to veteran science journalist Michael Lemonick to not only capture the science behind the search for exoplanets, but to eavesdrop on the occasionally quirky lives of the planet hunters themselves."—Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History

About the Author

Michael Lemonick has written more than 50 Time magazine cover stories on science, medicine and the environment, including its1996 story on the discovery of the first planets beyond the solar system. He also has been published in Discover, New Scientist, Newsweek, National Geographic, Wired, and Scientific American. He is the author of four books, most recently Echo of the Big Bang and The Georgian Star: How William and Caroline Herschel Revolutionized Our Understanding of the Cosmos.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080277900X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802779007
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #735,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Where are they? October 28, 2012
Enrico Fermi, when told that the sheer vastness of the universe meant that there must be at least hundreds of advanced civilizations out there, is said to have countered with the famous commonsense retort, "Then where are they"? In this book Michael Lemonick provides an exciting overview of a scientific development that could well lead us on the way to the answer to Fermi's question. "Mirror Earth" charts one of the hottest fields in science and one may that may well have profound implications for humanity - the search for earth-like planets or exoplanets.

Three aspects of Lemonick's book make it an excellent introduction to the field. The first is a presentation of the basics of planet hunting in plain language. Humanity has wondered about the presence of worlds like our own for thousands of years, but serious analysis of the topic started only in the mid twentieth century or so, and the tools necessary for actually carrying out searches of earth-like planets came into being only at the end of the last century. Finding a small, dim planet orbiting a much larger, brighter star is an extremely technically challenging problem and Lemonick describes the two main methods developed to achieve this goal; radial velocity analysis (in which a planet's motion causes wobbles in its parent star's motion which can be detected as changes in its light spectrum) and transit analysis (in which passage of the planet in front of the star dims its own light). Both methods require very sensitive apparatus, much patience and the right conditions for observations. Lemonick also tells us about other minor but still important techniques to detect planets. There are many false positives which have to be analyzed and discarded.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mirror Earth: The Search for Our Planet's Twin October 26, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Until as recently as 1995 any discussion relating to the existence of extrasolar planets orbiting Sun-like stars was purely hypothetical as there was no scientific evidence available to prove the existence of such planets. The discovery of 51 Pegasi b ushered in a new era in which enthusiastic astronomers were to concentrate their efforts on the search for extrasolar planets, with a particular interest in the identification of potentially habitable Earth-sized planets orbiting within habitable zones. The Kepler space telescope has now revolutionised this search, with many surprising revelations and the promise of more to come.

This book outlines the progress that has been achieved in recent years, and provides an interesting insight into the lives and work of the scientists who have adapted their chosen careers to become the first generation of exoplaneteers. It provides an outline of the obstacles that have been encountered in this field of research and the ingenious solutions that have been employed to develop the required cutting-edge technology. An interesting read for anyone who wishes to know more about this fascinating subject.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Searching for Other Worlds November 20, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is a fascinating study of the search for "exoplanets" by "exoplaneteers". Exoplanets are planets outside of our solar system that are nearby in the Milky Way Galaxy. The exoplaneteers are the scientists who have made the search for these planets their life work.

Ulitimately, the objective is to find a planet that is like the earth that can sustain life. To this date, no planet has been found that meets this criteria, however, what has been found is fascinating. Most of the planets that have been found revolve around red dwarf stars that are smaller than our sun and much cooler. All of these planets are much larger than the earth and orbit their stars at a much closer radius than our earth does to the sun. To this date, over 3000 planets have been found, and most of them through the Kepler telescope which was launched by NASA.

One of the hopes of this search is that intelligent life will be found. However, I must say that, in spite of the arguments provided by the book, there is no proof and you need to be a believer. (I for one believe that our planet is the only one in the universe that sustains intelligent life. I guess that I'm one of his "pessimists".) Even if you don't believe that intelligent life is out there, the possibly for finding planets that can sustain life is fascinating.

As mentioned by one child of a scientist, he will travel one day to that planet. I hope that we do. (It will probably many, many years to do this though.)

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in astronomy. The book is highly readable and kept my interest.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A passionating report of the steps of physicists and astronomers to start finding planets outside our Solar system. An open door into the philosophy of being even less central in the cosmos with what you may feel being. A great read. Thank you Mr. Lemonick
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are We Alone? July 23, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Want the inside story on how humans are searching for other Earths? Read this book...it's wonderful! I highly recommend it for those interested in the search for interstellar abodes that might harbor intelligence.
Jerry T. Searcy
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