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Book Reviews


The Search for Life Continued: Planets Around Other Stars
Author:Barrie W jones

Publisher: Springer-Praxis 2008

ISBN:978-0-387-76557-0

Price: £19.99 (Pb), 278pp


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In September the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) held a seminar entitled ‘Project Daedalus: Three Decades On’. This re-examined the famous interstellar probe study, carried out by the BIS in the mid-1970s, updating what has been learned since in terms of exoplanets, technological advances and how these new developments might influence any future designs. I took this book with me to show some of the delegates. An astronomer and planetary scientist there immediately felt it would be an ideal text for his students. That comment in itself speaks volumes about Barrie Jones’ work.

The author, an Open University professor, covers a huge spectrum of science: physics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology and planetary science. Jones guides the reader very logically outwards, from the basics of evolution on Earth, the classical habitable or ‘Goldilocks’ zone, the various methods of searching for exoplanets, known exoplanetary systems and potential undiscovered systems, to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, speculating on the forms of aliens possible based on their local stellar and planetary environments. This last section, by necessity, is quite slim!

The prose is easy to read; text boxes set out in more detail concepts introduced in the chapter you’re engaged with. There is a very good glossary and selection for further reading at the back. Illustrations – colour and black and white – comprise a mixture of photographs, diagrams and computer-generated artwork.

Speaking personally, whilst I enjoyed it I feel with my level of scientific education it is probably the sort of book which would benefit from a second reading. I struggled with many of the topics, although in fairness this may have been as I was encountering cascades of information: this is not a book to read in a few sittings. One thing a publication like this illustrates is how much astrobiology is a multi-faceted diamond, and no single individual can master the differing aspects involved in this multidisciplinary science.

Malcolm Smith

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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