- Hardcover: 226 pages
- Publisher: Copernicus; 2002 edition (November 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0387950745
- ISBN-13: 978-0387950747
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,951,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Distant Wanderers: The Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System 2002nd Edition
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From Library Journal
In 1995, the first authenticated and accepted discovery of an extrasolar planet was made, and more than 60 such planets have been identified since then, possibly leading the way to the discovery of intelligent life beyond Earth. A contributor to Astronomy, Discover, the Boston Globe, and other publications, science journalist Dorminey devotes most of this work to the various successful search methods and resulting discoveries. The last several chapters discuss future searches with planned new instruments and search methodologies under development. The scientific level of the book will be challenging for lay readers, and the seemingly unavoidable flood of acronyms for new programs is wearisome at times. Still, this well-written volume is useful, particularly for the currency of its information. Other recommended titles in the fast-growing field of extrasolar planets include Michael Lemonick's Other Worlds (LJ 4/1/98) and Ken Crosswell's Planet Quest (LJ 9/1/97). Dorminey's book is recommended for academic and large public libraries. Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In his first book, science journalist Dorminey gives a lucid and enjoyable account of the search for planets beyond our solar system. Although more than 60 such extrasolar planets have been detected, none have so far been directly observed. Instead their presence has been verified by the effects they have on the stars they orbit, such as wobble and interference. Therefore it is primarily the largest, or "Jupiter-class or better," planets that have been detected, and some of them are so large their existence challenges the very definitions of planets and stars. Dorminey does an excellent job of explaining the complex techniques involved in their study, such as Doppler spectroscopy, astrometry, and interferometry. He takes readers for a night's viewing at the world's major observatories, and introduces the patient scientists at the forefront of this painstaking yet exciting field. Ultimately they're searching for habitable planets such as our own, and although numerous factors must converge for life to evolve, many believe that the odds are in favor of abundant life in the universe. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
In Distant Wanderers, Bruce Dorminey looks at the history, methods, and future of extrasolar planet hunting. He predicts, "Before the end of this new century, every schoolchild will know for certain how many planers circle nearby stars," and whether or not Earth-like planets are a rare anomaly. Like many rapidly developing scientific fields, the search for extra-solar planets has had many controversies and false starts along with the startling new discoveries, and the book presents a variety of theories and viewpoints in a fair and even-handed way.
In the first part of the book, Dorminey, an award-winning science journalist and former bureau chief for Aviation Week & Space Technology, describes methods that planet hunters have used (spectroscopic methods, astrometric detection, interferometry, microlensing, transit studies, and direct imaging through the use of a coronagraphic mask in the focal plane a camera). Although most of these methods require sophisticated technology and painstaking analysis, he explains each term or concept as it is introduced. He makes the science seem simple enough for lay readers to grasp and explains the strengths and limitations of each method.
The rest of the book looks ahead to programs that are planned for the future, including telescopes in space and larger, more sophisticated instruments here on Earth. Some of these programs are already funded and will begin soon. Others are nd ambitious ideas that may not be attempted for years, if they ever happen at all.
Dorminey explains current ideas about formation of planets and discusses the search for Earth-like planets and for chemical signatures of extraterrestrial life. Through interviews with numerous researchers and experts, he presents information on what has already been learned about extrasolar planets and gives readers a feeling for the personalities and activities involved in doing this kind of research. In the process of writing Distant Wanderers, Dorminey himself wandered to far-off places, meeting the scientists and visiting the telescopes that are searching for extrasolar planets. His reports on his travels make the book much more human, interesting, and also tell us something about the writer.
After a visiting the European South Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile's Atacama Desert, Dorminey wrote, "After a night on an observatory mountain, E-mails left unanswered and faxes gone missing seem trivial indeed. I knew that a thousand miles south and several thousand miles north, the world was racing hither and yon. But for me, at that moment, my own existence seemed as precarious as the shallow atmosphere separating us from the nothingness beyond. If only for a fleeting minute, it was impossible not to imagine Earth as it really is: an oasis in the midst of a relative void."
Perhaps you can't quit your day job to make a grand tour of observatories. If that's the case, buy this book and read it. I learned and enjoyed. So will you.
Distant Wanderers by Bruce Dorminey follows the short history of successful planet hunting, starting with the first bizarre discovery of planets around a distant pulsar and moving on to the more dependable Doppler spectroscopy method. As there isn't a long history, the book quickly catches up to the present, profiling the methods used by today's seekers. The bulk of the book, though, looks to the future of planet hunting; from new techniques to space-based observatories currently in development.
Although the technical terminology flies fast and furious, Dorminey takes the time to explain each term when it appears (like Doppler spectroscopy), simply and clearly in a sidebar, to make sure you grasp the concept before going any further.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the book is how Dorminey presents his own journey to uncover the information and meet the researchers. It's mostly a science book, but it also feels a little like a travelogue, and it's that aspect that prevents it from being dry; these are real people, making some of the most exciting discoveries in modern science - it's hard not to get caught up in the adventure.
A couple of complaints: the text is pretty small, even with good vision it isn't easy on the eyes; the photography is all black and white, which is a shame considered the beauty of the pictures selected (I know what many of them look like in colour). Finally, the science in this book is totally cutting edge, so I suspect it might feel a little dated in a few years - but that's progress!
I definitely recommend Distant Wanderers, though.