What is life and where can it exist? What searches are being made to identify conditions for life on other worlds? If extraterrestrial inhabited worlds are found, how can we explore them? In Life Beyond Earth, two leading astrophysicists provide an engaging account of where we stand in our quest for habitable environments, in the Solar System and beyond. Starting from basic concepts, the narrative builds scientifically, including more in-depth material as boxed additions to the main text. The authors recount fascinating recent discoveries from space missions and observations using ground-based telescopes, of possible life-related artefacts in Martian meteorites, extrasolar planets, and subsurface oceans on Europa, Titan and Enceladus. They also provide a forward look to future missions. This is an exciting, informative read for anyone interested in the search for habitable and inhabited planets, and an excellent primer for students in astrobiology, habitability, planetary science and astronomy.
2. What is life and where can it exist?
3. Terrestrial planets and their diverging evolutions
4. Searching for habitable sites in the outer Solar System
5. A revolution in astronomy: the exploration of extrasolar planets
6. Extraterrestrial inhabited sites in the future
Athena Coustenis is Director of Research at the French National Research Center (CNRS) and an astrophysicist at the Laboratoire d'Etudes Spatiales et d'Instrumentation en Astrophysique (LESIA) of Paris Observatory. She is Co-Investigator of three of the instruments (CIRS, HASI, DISR) aboard the Cassini/Huygens mission. Her expertise in space missions has allowed her to Chair and to contribute in several advisory groups within ESA and NASA. Dr Coustenis is currently President of the EGU Planetary Sciences Division and President of the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences, as well as Secretary of the Executive committee of the Division for Planetary Sciences. She is a member of several editorial boards and has been awarded several NASA and ESA achievement awards.
Therese Encrenaz is Senior Director of Research at CNRS and an astrophysicist at LESIA, Paris Observatory. She has been involved in many planetary space missions and has been a Mission Scientist of the European ISO (Infrared Space Observatory) mission. She has chaired the Science Advisory Committee of CNES for the exploration of the Universe. She is currently a member of the E-ELT Project Science Team and is also serving as Vice-President of the Scientific Council of the Region Ile de France. Dr Encrenaz is the author of more than 250 refereed articles, a few lecture books and a dozen of popular books. She has received several awards including the Silver Medal of CNRS and the David Bates Medal of the European Geophysical Union.
"A thorough tour of the possible abodes of life elsewhere in the cosmos, Life Beyond Earth unifies the study of planets in a way that should be more common but is still rare. Coustenis and Encrenaz provide a clear and engaging exposition of planetary habitability, giving an authoritative picture of the wealth of information that we have on planets and the engaging mysteries that remain unsolved."
- Jonathan I. Lunine, Director, Center for Radiophysics and Space Research, Cornell University, and author of Earth: Evolution of a Habitable Plane
"A lot is happening in planetary science just now, with in-depth exploration of our solar system underway, and announcements of the discovery and characterisation of new worlds around other stars happening nearly every week. This new book, by two of the world's top planetary astronomers, describes the state-of-play in accessible but authoritative terms, with an exciting focus on the habitability of remote environments and the prospects for finding life beyond Earth."
- Fred Taylor, Emeritus Halley Professor of Physics, University of Oxford
"A delightful introduction to the wonderful world of astrobiology and the ongoing search for extraterrestrial life! Along with their recognised expertise in planetary science and astrophysics, the authors also exhibit a thorough understanding of the nature of life and of the techniques that are being used to try to detect it. This search will keep us busy for the next few generations."
- James Kasting, Pennsylvania State University
"There's no scientific question more interesting than whether the life that carpets Earth is some sort of miracle, or merely an unremarkable example of a common, cosmic phenomenon. This book engagingly describes many fascinating missions and discoveries, explaining why today's researchers think there's something alive out there, and how they hope to find it."
- Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer, SETI Institute, USA
"[...] [a] packed primer."