Astronomers have recently discovered thousands of planets that orbit stars throughout the Milky Way. Much of what has captured the imagination of planetary scientists and the public is the unexpected strangeness of these distant worlds. The sizes, masses, and orbits of exoplanets detected so far raise new questions about how planets form and evolve. Still more tantalizing are the efforts to determine which exoplanets might support life. Astronomers are steadily improving their means of examining these planets, using advanced spacecraft sent into orbits a million miles from Earth. These instruments will provide better observations of these planetary systems, which are nestled close enough to their dim red stars to maintain Earthlike temperatures. The quest to find other worlds brims with possibility, and Donald Goldsmith presents the science of exoplanets and the search for extraterrestrial life in a way that even Earthlings with little to no background in astronomy or astrophysics can understand and enjoy.
Donald Goldsmith is an astronomy writer in Berkeley, California, and the author of more than twenty books.