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ALIEN EARTHS: The New Science of Planet Hunting in the Cosmos
by Lisa Kaltenegger

ALIEN EARTHS: The New Science of Planet Hunting in the Cosmos by Lisa Kaltenegger

Riveting and timely, a look at the research that is transforming our understanding of the cosmos in the quest to discover whether we are alone

For thousands of years, humans have wondered whether we are alone in the cosmos. Now, for the first time, we have the technology to investigate. The question should have an obvious answer: yes or no. But once you try to find life elsewhere, you realize it is not so simple. What is life, actually? How do you find it over cosmic distances? And where are we the aliens?

As director of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University, astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger works with teams of tenacious scientists building the uniquely specialized tool kit to find life on alien worlds. In Alien Earths, she provides an insider’s view of what scientists are learning from Earth’s history and its astonishing biosphere. With an infectious enthusiasm, she takes us on an eye-opening journey to a dozen of the most unusual exoplanets that have shaken our worldview—planets covered in oceans of lava, lonely wanderers lost in space, and planets with more than one sun in the sky! And she dives into the worlds of science fiction, using these imagined other worlds to entertainingly describe how close they come to reality.

With the James Webb Space Telescope, other smaller telescopes, and the pioneering work Dr. Kaltenegger is carrying out in her labs, we live in an incredible epoch of exploration. With Dr. Kaltenegger as our witty and knowledgeable tour guide, we discover not merely new continents, like the explorers of old, but whole new worlds circling other stars. This riveting account will appeal to anyone who has ever gazed at the night sky in wonder.

LISA KALTENEGGER is the Director of the Carl Sagan Institute to Search for Life in the Cosmos at Cornell and Associate Professor in Astronomy. She is a pioneer and world-leading expert in modeling potential habitable worlds and their detectable spectral fingerprint. Kaltenegger serves on the National Science Foundation’s Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC), and on NASA senior review of operating missions. She is a Science Team Member of NASA’s TESS Mission as well as the NIRISS instrument on James Webb Space Telescope. Kaltenegger was named one of America’s Young Innovators by Smithsonian Magazine, an Innovator to Watch by TIME Magazine. She appears in the IMAX 3D movie “The Search for Life in Space” and speaks frequently, including at Aspen Ideas Festival, TED Youth, World Science Festival and the Kavli Foundation lecture at the Adler Planetarium which was live-streamed to 6 continents.

Early praise for Alien Earths:

“An erudite and highly readable inside view of the science and emerging discoveries of this remarkable new era.” —Charles Cockell, author of Taxis from Another Planet, Professor of Astrobiology, University of Edinburgh

“In the grand tradition of Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, we now have a new tour guide to the cosmos. Professor Lisa Kaltenegger takes us along on the quest to solve one of the greatest mysteries of existence: Are we alone in the universe? In Alien Earths, Kaltenegger—one of the pioneers leading the way—reveals what we’ve already discovered, and even more breathtakingly, what we might find.” —Steven Strogatz, Professor of Mathematics, Cornell University, and author of Infinite Powers

“Do you want to prepare yourself for the next ‘Copernican revolution’? Then read Lisa Kaltenegger’s book! Fascinating.” —Michel Mayor, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, Professor Emeritus, Department of Astronomy, University of Geneva

“The odds are overwhelming that something’s alive out there. But will we ever see a sign of life on a planet circling a distant star? And, if we do, will we recognize it? This fascinating and tantalizing book points the way to YES.” —Alan Alda

“Effervescent with ideas and edge-of-your-seat discoveries, Alien Earths provides a front-row seat to the astonishing era we live.” —Caleb Scharf, Director of Astrobiology, Columbia University, author of The Zoomable Universe

“Lisa Kaltenegger is an international leader in the discovery and analysis of exoplanets... Moreover, she is a brilliant expositor. I eagerly await what will surely be a riveting book.” —Sir Martin John Rees, Fifteenth Astronomer Royal, bestselling author of If Science is to Save Us