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Alien Earths: The New Science of Planet Hunting in the Cosmos (Hardcover)

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"In the grand tradition of Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, we now have a new tour guide to the cosmos."―Charles Cockell, Professor of Astrobiology, University of Edinburgh

"Absorbing, informative, and entertaining."―Kirkus (starred)

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're alone in the cosmos. Now, for the first time, we have the technology to investigate. But once you look for life elsewhere, you realize it is not so simple. How do you find it over cosmic distances? What actually is life?

As founding director of Cornell University's Carl Sagan Institute, astrophysicist Lisa Kaltenegger has built a team of tenacious scientists from many disciplines to create a specialized toolkit to find life on faraway worlds. In Alien Earths, she demonstrates how we can use our homeworld as a Rosetta Stone, creatively analyzing Earth's history and its astonishing biosphere to inform this search. With infectious enthusiasm, she takes us on an eye-opening journey to the most unusual exoplanets that have shaken our worldview - planets covered in oceans of lava, lonely wanderers lost in space, and others with more than one sun in their sky! And the best contenders for Alien Earths. We also see the imagined worlds of science fiction and how close they come to reality.

With the James Webb Space Telescope and Dr. Kaltenegger’s pioneering work, she shows that we live in an incredible new epoch of exploration. As our witty and knowledgeable tour guide, Dr. Kaltenegger shows how we discover not merely new continents, like the explorers of old, but whole new worlds circling other stars and how we could spot life there. Worlds from where aliens may even be gazing back at us. What if we're not alone?

About the Author


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 six continents.

Praise For…


“A stellar exploration … Readers will be riveted.”
Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Exquisite book is for all who have peered into the night sky pondering the mysteries of the universe … a mind-bending journey.”
Booklist (starred)

“Eloquent … Science and space enthusiasts will revel in this journey through the cosmos. They will undoubtedly learn novel information along the way.”
Library Journal

"In Alien Earths, Lisa Kaltenegger, a skillful educator, offers first-hand access to her expertise on the search for planets in the universe, and the life they may contain. Along the way, Lisa's breezy narrative style invites you to experience with her the challenges and joys of being a scientist on the frontier of discovery."
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History

"If you’ve ever wondered if we’re alone in the cosmos— and Dr. Kaltenegger is certain you have, start with Alien Earths. With her combined degrees in astronomy and engineering, she presents a primer on the geology, physics, chemistry, biology, and ultimately mathematics of places just like Earth— which she sets about seeking every (Earth) day. She’ll show you; the answer is in the sky, our window on the cosmos. Read on!"
—Bill Nye, CEO, The Planetary Society (and former student of Carl Sagan)

"What a fascinating glimpse into the creative work of exobiologists, humankind's exciting search for life elsewhere in the universe, and the tantalizing facts we've learned thus far. I was enchanted."
—Diane Ackerman, author of The Zookeeper's Wife

"An erudite and highly readable inside view of the science and emerging discoveries of this remarkable new era."
—Charles Cockell, author of Taxi 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, Prof. 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

"An engaging and personal book that couldn't be more up to date. Read Alien Earths, and feel your cosmic perspective shift just a little on its axis."
—Alastair Reynolds, science fiction writer and former ESA scientist

"In Kaltenegger’s exhilarating exploration of the state of the Earth-hunting art, she welcomes us into the latest strategies for finding life at interstellar distances. Kaltenegger is that precious rarity, a leading scientist with an
infectious passion for her subject and the talent to connect. Read this book and then gaze up at the night sky to find the stars sparkling even brighter with possibility."
Ann Druyan, co-creator of Contact, co-writer Cosmos: Possible Worlds

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250283634
ISBN-10: 1250283639
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: April 16th, 2024
Pages: 288
Language: English