Book Review: Distant Wanderers

Article written: 31 May , 2003
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Probably the most exciting aspect of modern astronomy is the recent discovery of planets orbiting other star systems. The techniques for finding the are only a few years old, but already astronomers have uncovered 74 (although, it’ll be more when you read this).

Probably the most exciting aspect of modern astronomy is the recent discovery of planets orbiting other star systems. The techniques for finding the are only a few years old, but already astronomers have uncovered 74 (although, it’ll be more when you read this).

Distant Wanderers by Bruce Dorminey follows the short history of successful planet hunting, starting with the first bizarre discovery of planets around a distant pulsar and moving on to the more dependable Doppler spectroscopy method. As there isn’t a long history, the book quickly catches up to the present, profiling the methods used by today’s seekers. The bulk of the book, though, looks to the future of planet hunting; from new techniques to space-based observatories currently in development.

Although the technical terminology flies fast and furious, Dorminey takes the time to explain each term when it appears (like Doppler spectroscopy), simply and clearly in a sidebar, to make sure you grasp the concept before going any further.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the book is how Dorminey presents his own journey to uncover the information and meet the researchers. It’s mostly a science book, but it also feels a little like a travelogue, and it’s that aspect that prevents it from being dry; these are real people, making some of the most exciting discoveries in modern science – it’s hard not to get caught up in the adventure.

A couple of complaints: the text is pretty small, even with good vision it isn’t easy on the eyes; the photography is all black and white, which is a shame considered the beauty of the pictures selected (I know what many of them look like in colour). Finally, the science in this book is totally cutting edge, so I suspect it might feel a little dated in a few years – but that’s progress!

I definitely recommend Distant Wanderers, though.

Click here to see more information about this book at Amazon.com.


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