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PLANET QUEST: The Epic Discovery of Alien Solar Systems Hardcover – September 2, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Astronomers confirmed the existence of planets outside our own solar system relatively recently--in 1992. Their long-anticipated discovery was hardly a surprise, but was quite a while in coming. Nobody has found an Earth-like world that is able to sustain life as we know it, but it seems only a matter of time before that happens. Meanwhile, Planet Quest explains the science behind the search for new planets. Readers who need to brush up on the basics of their own solar system will find a helpful introductory chapter, as well as an interesting discussion of why there is probably no "Planet X" orbiting the Sun beyond Pluto. The bulk of the book, of course, is devoted to extrasolar worlds and the planet hunters who seek them.

From Library Journal

After summarizing the history of the discovery of the outer planets in our solar system, science writer Croswell (The Alchemy of the Heavens, LJ 4/15/95) moves on to the exciting?and apparently authentic?recent discoveries of planets revolving around stars other than our Sun. He tells of a variety of premature "discoveries" that could not be confirmed and of more soundly based findings in the 1990s. He explains well the scientific basis of the search for remote planets and is candid about the rivalries and disagreements among the ambitious researchers in this field. Despite a speculative last chapter on the prospects for interstellar travel, Croswell wisely concentrates in general on the science (not the science fiction) of planetary searching. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.?Jack W. Weigel, Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (September 2, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684832526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684832524
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,414,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Ken Croswell's book, "Planet Quest" is a must for anyone interested in the search for planets outside of the solar system. The book reads well, telling a fascinating story from the beginnings of speculation about the existence of alien worlds right up to the present when information is coming to us all the time about strange new worlds around distant stars. Anybody with an interest in the possibilities of life elsewhere must read this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Before reading "Planet Quest", I was completely ignorant on this subject; I just assumed that someone found the planets sometime ago and that'd be good enough for me. That is no longer the case after going through the pages of "Planet Quest". With a clear, simple style of writing, the author offered readers like me wonderful insights into the thrilling process of hunting for a new planet. This is a non-fiction work, but I felt captivated as if reading Jules Verne novels! When following the stories of planet hunters with their glories and their defeats, I could conclude that life is much better than fiction. Good analogies were offered throughout to explain complicated details, especially to illustrate those infinite statistics on the immense universe. I do appreciate this eye-opening experience, which definitely enriched my knowledge in many ways.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The first pages of the book will place you back to the past in the year of 1600, in the time when Giordano Bruno, fifty-one-year-old former priest, was condemned as a heretic by the Inquisition and executed, only because of his beliefs of which one was that the stars were other suns which were circled by planets like the Earth. After more than 300 years, people still dream about planets like the Earth, but this time they aren't alone, and the Inquisition is gone. :)
In the next few chapters the author will familiarize you with the four astronomical ingrediens of life, guide you through our own Solar system in the search for patterns in the data, compare our Sun with other similar stars and discuss how and why planets are formed. After that, there follows a visit to the Sun's distant outposts and history of discovery and search for Uranus, Neptune, Vulcan - the Phantom planet; Pluto and Planet X. Then journey to the stars begins and the next stop is Alpha Centauri, the closest stellar neighbor after our Sun. Chapter by chapter, you will learn where is our Sun in the stellar pyramid, what spectral types are best suitable for life conditions on local planets, how long life span that kind of stars should have, etc. The book explains many more things than mentioned above, and in the next half of it, it will explain how planets can be detected, where Vega, Beta Pictoris and Folmahaut are in the story about search for extrasolar worlds, and how we could promptly confuse ourselves with misinterpreted data. Where should we draw a border for the definition of the planets? Small brown dwarfs and big Jupiter-like planets can be similar in mass and behaviour when looked from our perspective, but why are they different?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By charles rowe on June 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
Planet Quest is a great book for all you armchair astronomers who want to learn more! I am not an astronomer or even an amateur astronomer, in fact, Planet Quest is only the Third book I've read on the subject but my interest is growing. Planet Quest is very easy to understand because all of the scientific jargon is followed by words and explanations that beginners, like you and me, can follow. Read this book, you won't be disappointed!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Harry Pulley (hpulley@home.com) on May 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Croswell takes us on a journey of exploration from the discovery of distant planets within our own solar system to the discovery of brown drawfs and planets in orbit around other stars. I found this book to be both informative and enjoyable to read.
The recent events in the discovery of extra-solar planets are known to many of us but this book describes much more than simply a chronology of planets found in successful searches. It also details the theories and theorists that made predictions long before observations of these small bodies was possible. Croswell interviewed many of the scientists actually involved in the search for planets. Whether successful or not, he outlines many of the techniques that were tried in the search and the reasons why some are better at discovering some types of planets than others.
By the end of the book I felt I truly knew the mind of a planet hunter. The book lets you relive the thrill of the find, the embarrassment of observational errors and the despair of years of negative results.
Reading this book is quite easy, more like a novel than non-fiction. Like most well-made historical documentaries it is exciting to recount the events even when you know the final outcome.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Croswell takes a technical topic and presents it in a tremendously fascinating context that is easily understood and captivating. From the history of planet discovery to the wealth of information presented about man's pursuit of knowledge of the heavens - this book intrigued me. No doubt reams of research were compiled and condensed by the author to assemble this tale of post modern and modern exploration of the heavens. When finished, I felt I gained a better understanding of not only the planet Earth and our solar system - but what the galaxy we live in may present for discovery.
I highly reccomend this book to anyone who has ever looked up at the night sky - and wondered about other worlds that may be out there like our own.
First rate reading!
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