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

By Ray Jayawardhana

In Strange New Worlds, popular astronomer Ray Jayawardhana brings information from front traces of the epic quest to discover planets--and alien life--beyond our sunlight method. in simple terms long ago twenty years, after millennia of hypothesis, have astronomers all started to find planets round different stars--thousands actually. Now they're nearer than ever to unraveling far-off twins of the Earth. during this ebook, Jayawardhana vividly recounts the tales of the scientists and the striking breakthroughs that experience ushered during this remarkable age of exploration. He describes the most recent findings--including his own--that are not easy our view of the cosmos and casting new gentle at the origins and evolution of planets and planetary platforms. He finds how expertise is swiftly advancing to aid direct observations of Jupiter-like gasoline giants and super-Earths--rocky planets with numerous instances the mass of our personal planet--and how astronomers use biomarkers to hunt attainable lifestyles on different worlds.

Strange New Worlds presents an insider's examine the state of the art technology of state-of-the-art planet hunters, our customers for locating alien existence, and the debates and controversies on the leading edge of extrasolar-planet research.

In a brand new afterword, Jayawardhana explains probably the most fresh advancements as we look for the 1st clues of existence on different planets.

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It’s sufficiently big to be noticeable with the (properly safe) bare eye, yet there aren't any documents of a transit being saw earlier than the discovery of the telescope early within the 17th century. That’s no longer too astounding given the rarity of the development. In 1629 Johannes Kepler, as he investigated the legislation of planetary movement, discovered that transits of either Venus and Mercury may ensue years later. regrettably, he didn’t reside to determine both, and the Venus transit of 1631 used to be now not noticeable from Europe at the least. yet ecu astronomers have been in a position to notice the transit of Mercury in November that yr, vindicating Kepler’s prediction. 8 years later, Englishmen Jeremiah Horrocks and William Crabtree, pals dwelling thirty miles aside, made the frst recorded observations of a Venus transit via projecting the Sun’s photograph with small telescopes. possibly encouraged through a transit of Mercury he saw from the island of St. Helena in 1677, Edmund Halley, of comet status, awarded a paper to the Royal Society in London in 1691 on measuring the gap among the Earth and the Sun—the astronomical unit—using transit timings. His advice, an concept additionally proposed via a Scottish mathematician virtually thirty years previous, used to be to time the transit from generally separated destinations on the earth and use the adaptation within the obvious paths taken by means of Venus around the face of the solar to calculate the Earth-Venus and hence Earth-Sun distance utilizing trigonometry. a correct dimension of the AU, then identified not to far better than an element of two, wouldn't basically set the space scale for the sun process but in addition carry the extra down-to-Earth promise of bettering celestial tables used for maritime navigation. After Halley’s loss of life, others took on his cost of organizing expeditions to watch the 1761 and 1769 Venus transits from a variety of components of the globe. regardless of the demanding situations of long-distance sea shuttle via wood crusing send, the diffculty of acquiring and utilizing specific clocks and different tools, and the hazards posed via the continuing Seven Years’ warfare among England and France, astronomers from these international locations and Austria fastened expeditions to such far-fung venues as Newfoundland, St. Helena, Norway, Siberia, and the Indian Ocean for the frst transit. in spite of a few a hundred and twenty observers in overall, it became out that the unfold in range used to be faraway from optimum for a parallax dimension. With the additional uncertainties of timing, undesirable climate in a few destinations, and no wisdom of the precise longitude of others (such as Rodrigues Island simply east of Mauritius), the much-hoped-for development in measuring the AU didn't materialize. the plain mess ups of 1761 made all of it the extra very important to get issues correct for the second one transit of the pair 8 years later. A fee manage through the Royal Society known as on King George III to aid an day trip to Tahiti to watch the 1769 transit. The suggestion highlighted the sensible price of the outcome, declaring transit size might “contribute vastly to the advance of astronomy on which Navigation rather a lot relies.

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