304 pages, 6 b/w illustrations
In the mid-1990s, astronomers made history when they detected three planets orbiting stars in the Milky Way. The planets were nothing like Earth, however: they were giant gas balls like Jupiter or Saturn. More than 500 planets have been found since then, yet none of them could support life. Now, armed with more powerful technology, planet hunters are racing to find a true twin of Earth. Science writer Michael Lemonick has unique access to these exoplaneteers, as they call themselves, and Mirror Earth unveils their passionate quest. Geoff Marcy, at the University of California, Berkeley, is the world's most successful planet hunter, having found two of the first three extra-solar planets.
Bill Borucki, at the NASA Ames Research Center, struggled for more than a decade to launch the Kepler mission-the only planet finder, human or machine, to beat Marcy's record. David Charbonneau, at Harvard, realized that Earths would be much easier to find if he looked at tiny stars called M-dwarfs rather than stars like the Sun-and that he could use backyard telescopes to find them! Unlike those in other races, the competing scientists actually consult and cooperate with one another. But only one will be the first to find Earth's twin. Mirror Earth is poised narrate this historic event as the discovery is made.
"Readers will be rewarded with insight into how these scientists dreamed up ambitious ways to search the heavens trillions of miles away, then pulled strings and twisted arms to execute those ideas."
"A frank and vivid account of planet hunting."
"It is a fascinating journey [...] Lemonick has elegantly and convincingly captured the magnitude of the discoveries that have happened in our lifetimes."
– New Scientist
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Michael Lemonick has written more than 50 Time magazine cover stories on science, medicine and the environment, including its 1996 story on the discovery of the first planets beyond the solar system. He also has been published in Discover, New Scientist, Newsweek, National Geographic, Wired, and Scientific American. He is the author of four books, most recently Echo of the Big Bang and The Georgian Star: How William and Caroline Herschel Revolutionized Our Understanding of the Cosmos.