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Book Reviews


Exoplanets: Finding, Exploring and Understanding Alien Worlds
Author: Chris Kitchin

Publisher: Springer

ISBN: 978-1-46140-643-3

Price: £26.99 (Pb), 281pp


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This book by astronomy writer and BBC The Sky at Night regular Chris Kitchin examines the various methods used to detect and analyse exoplanets. It also explores topical subjects such as the environments on such planets, where they are found and whether they could make a good home-from-home for humans. Kitchin’s obvious expertise in this field means he goes into significantly greater depth than other books on the subject. However, the book reads a little like a textbook in places, with tables presented throughout. The text is peppered with the names of various planets (‘WASP-19b’, ’55 Cnc d’, ‘PSR 1257+12b’ and so on) – while Kitchin can’t escape this, it does make for quite a dry read. There are appendices describing why these planets are named as they are, but constantly flipping from chapter to appendix in order to keep up makes the book feel stilted.

The main problem with books on this subject is that they date very quickly. Kitchin admits this himself, mentioning that parts of the book were written in the last days before sending to print (in early 2011). With the almost weekly Kepler discoveries of new, smaller and more Earth-like planets, the book seems strangely outdated – it would perhaps have served better if it focused on the methods of detection alone, rather than summing up the past discoveries, future prospects of the field, and discussing their potential as future human colonies.

The book may not appeal to the lay reader as some prior knowledge is assumed, but Kitchin tries to be as inclusive as possible by both explaining as he goes along and pointing the way to recommended further reading. For someone willing to put a bit of effort in to gain a comprehensive overview of the hunt for exoplanets – and learn about the physics behind the past discoveries – this book is an ideal choice.

Nicky Guttridge

2009 Yearbook
This 132-page special edition features the ultimate observing guide for 2009, a review of all the biggest news stories of 2008, in depth articles covering all aspects of astronomy and space missions for 2009, previews of International Year of Astronomy events and much, much more.
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Infinity Rising
This special publication features the photography of British astro-imager Nik Szymanek and covers a range of photographic methods from basic to advanced. Beautiful pictures of the night sky can be obtained with a simple camera and tripod before tackling more difficult projects, such as guided astrophotography through the telescope and CCD imaging.
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Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!
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Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
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