Exploring the potential for extraterrestrial life and the origins of our own planet, this comprehensive introduction to astrobiology is updated with the latest findings.
Informed by the discoveries and analyses of extrasolar planets and the findings from recent robotic missions across the solar system, scientists are rapidly replacing centuries of speculation about potential extraterrestrial habitats with real knowledge about the possibility of life outside our own biosphere – if it exists, and, if so, where. Casting new light on the biggest questions there are – how did we get here, and who else might be out there? – this third edition of Kevin W. Plaxco and Michael Gross's widely acclaimed Astrobiology incorporates a decade's worth of new developments in space to bring readers the most comprehensive, up-to-date, and engaging introduction to the field available.
Plaxco and Gross examine the factors that make our Universe habitable, from the origin of chemical elements and the formation of the first galaxies and stars to the birth and composition of the planets. They describe the latest thinking about the origins of life, explain the evolution of metabolism and the development of complex organisms. In order to assess the limits for life elsewhere, they also explore life in extreme habitats and reveal how it informs the search for potential extraterrestrial habitats – ones that might support extraterrestrial life. New and updated illustrations enhance the book throughout.
Sharing fascinating findings from the comet mission Dawn, the visit of New Horizons to Pluto, and the work of the Deep Carbon Observatory, which has revealed an incredible underground biosphere within our own planet, Plaxco and Gross weave together cosmology, astrophysics, geology, biochemistry, biophysics, and microbiology. From neutron star mergers to the survival skills of tardigrades, this fascinating book is an ideal primer for students or anyone curious about life and the Universe.
Chapter 1. What Is Life?
Chapter 2. Origins of a Habitable Universe
Chapter 3. Origins of a Habitable Planet
Chapter 4. Primordial Soup
Chapter 5. The Spark of Life
Chapter 6. From Molecules to Cells
Chapter 7. A Concise History of Life on Earth
Chapter 8. Life on the Edge
Chapter 9. Habitable Worlds in the Solar System and Beyond
Chapter 10. The Search for ET
Kevin W. Plaxco is a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Michael Gross is a science writer based in Oxford. He is the author of Life on the Edge: Amazing Creatures Thriving in Extreme Environments.
"I did not find a single page in this book that did not attract my interest."
– Anna Faktorovich, Pennsylvania Literary Journal
"A comprehensive yet concise introduction to the field."
– The Space Review
"A good read for all those who are fascinated by the search for extraterrestrial life and the origin of life on our own planet. I shall certainly value it in my own library."
– Chemistry World
"An accessible guide to this young and interdisciplinary field."
– Physics World
"Certainly the most readable introduction to astrobiology now available."
– Chemical and Engineering News
"Plaxco and Gross bring us as close to aliens as we can currently get. I recommend this book to anyone interested in science's newest kid on the block."
– Astronomy Now
"Plaxco and Gross do an excellent job [...] Theirs may well be the best textbook available on the subject."
"Tantalises the imagination and leaves you wanting to know more."
– Australasian Science Magazine
"The fascinating world of extremophiles is well presented, and a broad overview of the searches for evidence of life beyond Earth rounds off the book. The text is liberally illustrated with relevant figures that greatly enhance the content, and entertaining snippets of information detailing the quirks of research in this field nicely supplement the scientific content."