Until around ten years ago, the only planets that we knew about were within the Solar System. The first genuine planet beyond the confines of the Solar System was discovered only 1988. Since then another 350 or so exoplanets have been detected by various methods, and most of these haven been found in the last ten years. Although many more exoplanets discoveries may be expected to occur even as this book is being read, a large enough data set is now available to form the basis for an informed general account of exoplanets.
The topic hence is an extremely "hot" one - all the more so because the recently launched Kepler spacecraft should soon start uncovering many more exoplanets, some perhaps comparable with the Earth (and therefore possibly alternative homes for mankind, if we could ever reach them). Exoplanets: Finding, Exploring, and Understanding Alien Life gives a comprehensive, balances, and above all accurate account of exoplanets.
Chris Kitchin has written or contributed to over two dozen books, and has published more than 500 articles in the astronomical journals and magazines. He also appears regularly on television, including many appearances on BBC TV's Sky at Night. His works for Springer includes, A Photo Guide to the Constellations: A Self-Teaching Guide to Finding Your Way Around the Heavens (1997), Solar Observing Techniques (2001), Illustrated Dictionary of Practical Astronomy (2002), and most recently Galaxies in Turmoil (2007). In his 'day job' Chris is Emeritus Professor of Astronomy at the University of Hertfordshire, where until recently he was also Head of Physics and Astronomy, and Director of the University Observatory. Like many other astronomers Chris's interest in the subject started early. At the age of fourteen, he constructed an 8-inch Newtonian after spending hundreds of hours grinding and polishing the main mirror from scratch. Despite using some of the largest telescopes in the world since then, Chris still enjoys just 'gazing at the heavens' - though nowadays it's through a German-made Zeiss Maksutov telescope.
The variety of extra-solar planets brings a wider angle to the issue: from scorching "hot jupiters'' to ocean worlds, exo-atmospheres explore many configurations unknown in the Solar System, such as iron clouds, silicate rains, extreme plate tectonics, and steam volcanoes. Exoplanetary atmospheres have recently become accessible to observations.
This book puts our own climate in the wider context of the trials and tribulations of planetary atmospheres. Based on cutting-edge research, it uses a grand tour of the atmospheres of other planets to shine a new light on our own atmosphere, and its relation with life.
The author presents the observational methods needed to probe the spin-orbit angle, the relation between the stellar spin axis and planetary orbital axis. Measurements of the spin-orbit angle provide us a unique and valuable opportunity to understand the origin of close-in giant exoplanets, called "hot Jupiters".
The first method introduced involves observations of the Rossiter-McLaughlin effect (RM effect). The author points out the issues with the previous theoretical modeling of the RM effect and derives a new and improved theory. Applications of the new theory to observational data are also presented for a number of remarkable systems, and the author shows that the new theory minimizes the systematic errors by applying it to the observational data.
The author also describes another method for constraining the spin-orbit angle: by combining the measurements of stellar flux variations due to dark spots on the stellar surface, with the projected stellar rotational velocity measured via spectroscopy, the spin-orbit angles "along the line-of-sight" are constrained for the transiting exoplanetary systems reported by the Kepler space telescope.
Based on their lectures given at the 31st Saas-Fee Advanced Course, Andreas Quirrenbach, Tristan Guillot and Pat Cassen have written up up-to-date comprehensive lecture notes on the "Detection and Characterization of Extrasolar Planets", "Physics of Substellar Objects Interiors, Atmospheres, Evolution" and "Protostellar Disks and Planet Formation". This book will serve graduate students, lecturers and scientists entering the field of extrasolar planets as detailed and comprehensive introduction.
Louis Friedman of the Planetary Society and Jacques Blamont of CNES (both involved in Mars and Venus balloon projects) are both interviewed, along with Victor Kerzhanovich of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (planetary balloon systems), Julian Nott (balloonist adventurer and Titan balloon enthusiast), Ralph Lorenz (John Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab, team member of the proposed Montgolfier balloon on NASA's flagship mission to Titan), Lockheed Martin's Ben Clark (early atmospheric probe designer), Joe Palaia (UAV tests to Devon Island, Canadian Arctic), Joel Levine, Langley Research Center's principal investigator for the Mars ARES (Aerial Regional Environmental Survey), and Andrew Ingersoll, planetary atmospheres expert at California Institute of Technology, among others.
The aim of this book is to provide an up-to-date account of active galaxies that is appropriate to the background knowledge of amateur astronomers, but might also be picked-up and read for interest by any reader with a scientific bent.
Active galaxies (including Quasars, QSOs, Radio galaxies, BL Lacs, Blazars, LINERS, ULIRGS, Seyfert galaxies, Starburst galaxies, N galaxies, etc.) are a major field of current astronomical research. Up to a fifth of all research astronomers are working on active galaxies. Huge amounts of time on major telescopes are devoted to their study. In almost all cases the galaxies are thought to be powered by 100 million solar mass black holes at their centres.
Some of the objects are bright enough to be seen in small telescopes, and an amateur astronomer with a 20 cm telescope and a CCD detector could obtain images of many more. Lists of such objects, and their visual and imaged appearance in commercially available telescopes are an important component of this book. This detailed but accessible work will be the only coherent and complete source of information for non-technical readers on an area of astronomy that fascinates many people and whose spectacular images from the Hubble space telescope, Gemini, VLT and other major telescopes frequently make the pages of the quality newspapers and occasionally appear on TV.
It also has the potential to be chosen as a set text or background reading for university courses on the subject, althought he writing style is such that it will appeal to all readers.
From planets and stars to black holes and the Big Bang, take a journey through the wonders of the universe. Featuring topics from the Copernican Revolution to the mind-boggling theories of recent science, The Astronomy Book uses flowcharts, graphics, and illustrations to help clarify hard-to-grasp concepts and explain almost 100 big astronomical ideas. Covering the biographies of key astronomers through the ages such as Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton, Hubble, and Hawking, The Astronomy Book details their theories and discoveries in a user-friendly format to make the information accessible and easy to follow.