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Dreams of Other Worlds describes the unmanned space missions that have opened new windows on distant worlds. Spanning four decades of dramatic advances in astronomy and planetary science, this book tells the story of eleven iconic exploratory missions and how they have fundamentally transformed our scientific and cultural perspectives on the universe and our place in it.The journey begins with the Viking and Mars Exploration Rover missions to Mars, which paint a startling picture of a planet at the cusp of habitability. It then moves into the realm of the gas giants with the Voyager probes and Cassini's ongoing exploration of the moons of Saturn. The Stardust probe's dramatic round-trip encounter with a comet is brought vividly to life, as are the SOHO and Hipparcos missions to study the Sun and Milky Way. This stunningly illustrated book also explores how our view of the universe has been brought into sharp focus by NASA's great observatories--Spitzer, Chandra, and Hubble--and how the WMAP mission has provided rare glimpses of the dawn of creation.Dreams of Other Worlds reveals how these unmanned exploratory missions have redefined what it means to be the temporary tenants of a small planet in a vast cosmos.
Astrobiology is an exciting interdisciplinary field that seeks to answer one of the most important and profound questions: are we alone? In this volume, leading international experts explore the frontiers of astrobiology, investigating the latest research questions that will fascinate a wide interdisciplinary audience at all levels. What is the earliest evidence for life on Earth? Where are the most likely sites for life in the Solar System? Could life have evolved elsewhere in the Galaxy? What are the best strategies for detecting intelligent extraterrestrial life? How many habitable or Earth-like exoplanets are there? Progress in astrobiology over the past decade has been rapid and, with evidence accumulating that Mars once hosted standing bodies of liquid water, the discovery of over 500 exoplanets and new insights into how life began on Earth, the scientific search for our origins and place in the cosmos continues.
Astrobiology, the study of life in space, is one of today's fastest growing and most popular fields of science. In this compelling, accessible, and elegantly reasoned new book, award-winning scholar and researcher Chris Impey explores the foundations of this rapidly developing discipline, where it's going, and what it's likely to find. The journey begins with the earliest steps of science, gaining traction through the revelations of the Renaissance, including Copernicus's revolutionary declaration that the Earth was not the center of the universe but simply a planet circling the sun. But if Earth is not the only planet, it is so far the only living one that we know of. In fascinating detail, The Living Cosmos reveals the incredible proliferation and variety of life on Earth, paying special tribute to some of its hardiest life forms, extremophiles, a dizzying array of microscopic organisms compared, in Impey's wise and humorous prose, to superheroes that can survive extreme heat and cold, live deep within rocks, or thrive in pure acid. From there, Impey launches into space, where astrobiologists investigate the potential for life beyond our own world. Is it to be found on Mars, the "death planet" that has foiled most planetary missions, and which was wet and temperate billions of years ago? Or on Venus, Earth's "evil twin," where it rains sulfuric acid and whose heat could melt lead? ("Whoever named it after the goddess of love had a sorry history of relationships.") The answer may lie in a moon within our Solar System, or it may be found in one of the hundreds of extra-solar planets that have already been located. The Living Cosmos sees beyond these explorations, and imagines space vehicles that eschew fuel for solar- or even nuclear-powered rockets, all sent by countries motivated by the millions to be made in space tourism. But The Living Cosmos is more than just a riveting work about experiment and discovery. It is also an affecting portrait of the individuals who have devoted their lives to astrobiology. Illustrated throughout, The Living Cosmos is a revelatory book about a science that is changing our view of the universe, a mesmerizing guide to what life actually means and where it may--or may not--exist, and a stunning work that explains our past as it predicts our future.
With over 500 planets now known to exist beyond the Solar System, spacecraft heading for Mars, and the ongoing search for extraterrestrial intelligence, this timely book explores current ideas about the search for life in the Universe. It contains candid interviews with dozens of astronomers, geologists, biologists, and writers about the origin and range of terrestrial life and likely sites for life beyond Earth. The interviewees discuss what we've learnt from the missions to Mars and Titan, talk about the search for Earth clones, describe the surprising diversity of life on Earth, speculate about post-biological evolution, and explore what contact with intelligent aliens will mean to us. Covering topics from astronomy and planetary science to geology and biology, this book will fascinate anyone who has ever wondered 'Are we alone?'
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