Planet Hunter: Geoff Marcy and The Search for Other Earths

Planet Hunter: Geoff Marcy and The Search for Other Earths

This large format, stunningly illustrated book perfectly captures the thrill and excitement of a relatively new branch of astronomy, the search for new planets, by profiling one of its most successful practitioners, Geoff Marcy.Since 1995, Marcy and his team have been responsible for locating almost half of the 400 extrasolar planets known today.Debut author Wittenstein first introduces readers to Marcy and his team as they perform their observations at the W. M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea, in Hawaii.The book continues on to detail in a clear and easily understood manner the complex and ingenious techniques that must be used in the search, such as the Doppler spectrometry that is used to deduce orbits, and then clearly explains how orbits are used to deduce the presence of planets.As Marcy explains, "A planet is like a dog being walked by …the star. . .The leash is gravity.You can figure out how large the planet is… by how much the star wobbles."

The text is accompanied by many charts, graphs, illustrations, sidebars and captions that make comprehensible the complexities and challenges of the scientific techniques used in the research.But, while simplified, the subject matter is not simple.The explanations are clear, interestingly written, and include many quotes from scientists, and help to make this complex subject accessible to young readers.Beautiful photographs, some from the Hubble telescope, are skillfully combined with artists’ renderings of exotic suns and alien landscapes, to make the book breathtakingly beautiful, as well as informative. Early chapters give a brief look at the history of planet hunting and the development of the field, while the final chapter looks forward to the next phase of study, using data from NASA's 2009 Kepler Mission. A full index, a glossary, and a bibliography of additional reading and websites for middle and high-school readers are appended.This handsome book should appeal to all lovers of non-fiction, and may well turn some readers into budding astronomers.

Recommended by Linda Lucke, Learning Center Director.

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