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5.0 out of 5 stars Distant Wanderers, Aug. 22 2002
By 
Scott Light (Cleveland, Ohio) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Distant Wanderers: The Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System (Hardcover)
In an age of the human race's thirst for information regarding the unknown, Bruce Dorminey, hits it out of the galaxy. Extrasolar planets are the rave of future astronomers and to receive first hand knowledge from someone who has become close to the scientists involved in the discoveries allows us, the reader, to get a detailed description of the process and history not seen before. This book is a must for anyone with even the slightest interest in the subject. Fantastic Job, Bruce.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Understandable and Readable Account of Distant Wanderers, May 27 2002
By 
JIM W KRANIAS (LONDON United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Distant Wanderers: The Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System (Hardcover)
A very timely book! Five years ago there wasn?t enough progress and news to warrant a book on this intriguing subject. Today this field is teeming with excitement and new discoveries. This book takes you behind the scenes of the serious research that is focused on finding planets beyond the solar system.
Bruce Dorminey does an excellent job of setting the stage. For the layman, like me, there are simple explanations of the more technical terms and concepts. These are welcome and wisely placed within the text, making the book highly readable. The professional merely skips over these italicized paragraphs.
As he travels the world to visit observatories, scientists and their scientific conferences, Mr Dorminey adds his own observations of the localities, the technical facilities and the personalities behind some of these remarkable discoveries. Amongst others, we follow him to Chile, Hawaii, the south of France and even the Isle of Capri!
The final chapters on Signatures of Life and Signals of Life are what this search is all about. Fascinating reading!
It is enjoyable and well worth the time to read this well written book on a truly absorbing subject.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wander with the author in this new book about planets, March 18 2002
By 
Linda L. Mamassian (Michigan, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Distant Wanderers: The Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System (Hardcover)
The search for planets in orbit around stars outside our own Solar Systems is one of the most exciting fields of science today. Since the first indirect detection of a planet circling another Sun-like star was announced in 1995, dozens of extrasolar planets have been discovered.
In Distant Wanderers, Bruce Dorminey looks at the history, methods, and future of extrasolar planet hunting. He predicts, "Before the end of this new century, every schoolchild will know for certain how many planers circle nearby stars," and whether or not Earth-like planets are a rare anomaly. Like many rapidly developing scientific fields, the search for extra-solar planets has had many controversies and false starts along with the startling new discoveries, and the book presents a variety of theories and viewpoints in a fair and even-handed way.
In the first part of the book, Dorminey, an award-winning science journalist and former bureau chief for Aviation Week & Space Technology, describes methods that planet hunters have used (spectroscopic methods, astrometric detection, interferometry, microlensing, transit studies, and direct imaging through the use of a coronagraphic mask in the focal plane a camera). Although most of these methods require sophisticated technology and painstaking analysis, he explains each term or concept as it is introduced. He makes the science seem simple enough for lay readers to grasp and explains the strengths and limitations of each method.
The rest of the book looks ahead to programs that are planned for the future, including telescopes in space and larger, more sophisticated instruments here on Earth. Some of these programs are already funded and will begin soon. Others are nd ambitious ideas that may not be attempted for years, if they ever happen at all.
Dorminey explains current ideas about formation of planets and discusses the search for Earth-like planets and for chemical signatures of extraterrestrial life. Through interviews with numerous researchers and experts, he presents information on what has already been learned about extrasolar planets and gives readers a feeling for the personalities and activities involved in doing this kind of research. In the process of writing Distant Wanderers, Dorminey himself wandered to far-off places, meeting the scientists and visiting the telescopes that are searching for extrasolar planets. His reports on his travels make the book much more human, interesting, and also tell us something about the writer.
After a visiting the European South Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile's Atacama Desert, Dorminey wrote, "After a night on an observatory mountain, E-mails left unanswered and faxes gone missing seem trivial indeed. I knew that a thousand miles south and several thousand miles north, the world was racing hither and yon. But for me, at that moment, my own existence seemed as precarious as the shallow atmosphere separating us from the nothingness beyond. If only for a fleeting minute, it was impossible not to imagine Earth as it really is: an oasis in the midst of a relative void."
Perhaps you can't quit your day job to make a grand tour of observatories. If that's the case, buy this book and read it. I learned and enjoyed. So will you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wander with the author in this new book about planets, March 18 2002
By 
Linda L. Mamassian (Michigan, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Distant Wanderers: The Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System (Hardcover)
The search for planets in orbit around stars outside our own Solar Systems is one of the most exciting fields of science today. Since the first indirect detection of a planet circling another Sun-like star was announced in 1995, dozens of extrasolar planets have been discovered.
In Distant Wanderers, Bruce Dorminey looks at the history, methods, and future of extrasolar planet hunting. He predicts, "Before the end of this new century, every schoolchild will know for certain how many planers circle nearby stars," and whether or not Earth-like planets are a rare anomaly. Like many rapidly developing scientific fields, the search for extra-solar planets has had many controversies and false starts along with the startling new discoveries, and the book presents a variety of theories and viewpoints in a fair and even-handed way.
In the first part of the book, Dorminey, an award-winning science journalist and former bureau chief for Aviation Week & Space Technology, describes methods that planet hunters have used (spectroscopic methods, astrometric detection, interferometry, microlensing, transit studies, and direct imaging through the use of a coronagraphic mask in the focal plane a camera). Although most of these methods require sophisticated technology and painstaking analysis, he explains each term or concept as it is introduced. He makes the science seem simple enough for lay readers to grasp and explains the strengths and limitations of each method.
The rest of the book looks ahead to programs that are planned for the future, including telescopes in space and larger, more sophisticated instruments here on Earth. Some of these programs are already funded and will begin soon. Others are nd ambitious ideas that may not be attempted for years, if they ever happen at all.
Dorminey explains current ideas about formation of planets and discusses the search for Earth-like planets and for chemical signatures of extraterrestrial life. Through interviews with numerous researchers and experts, he presents information on what has already been learned about extrasolar planets and gives readers a feeling for the personalities and activities involved in doing this kind of research. In the process of writing Distant Wanderers, Dorminey himself wandered to far-off places, meeting the scientists and visiting the telescopes that are searching for extrasolar planets. His reports on his travels make the book much more human, interesting, and also tell us something about the writer.
After a visiting the European South Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile's Atacama Desert, Dorminey wrote, "After a night on an observatory mountain, E-mails left unanswered and faxes gone missing seem trivial indeed. I knew that a thousand miles south and several thousand miles north, the world was racing hither and yon. But for me, at that moment, my own existence seemed as precarious as the shallow atmosphere separating us from the nothingness beyond. If only for a fleeting minute, it was impossible not to imagine Earth as it really is: an oasis in the midst of a relative void."
Perhaps you can't quit your day job to make a grand tour of observatories. If that's the case, buy this book and read it. I learned and enjoyed. So will you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wander with the author in this new book about planets, March 18 2002
By 
Linda L. Mamassian (Michigan, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Distant Wanderers: The Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System (Hardcover)
The search for planets in orbit around stars outside our own Solar Systems is one of the most exciting fields of science today. Since the first indirect detection of a planet circling another Sun-like star was announced in 1995, dozens of extrasolar planets have been discovered.
In Distant Wanderers, Bruce Dorminey looks at the history, methods, and future of extrasolar planet hunting. He predicts, "Before the end of this new century, every schoolchild will know for certain how many planers circle nearby stars," and whether or not Earth-like planets are a rare anomaly. Like many rapidly developing scientific fields, the search for extra-solar planets has had many controversies and false starts along with the startling new discoveries, and the book presents a variety of theories and viewpoints in a fair and even-handed way.
In the first part of the book, Dorminey, an award-winning science journalist and former bureau chief for Aviation Week & Space Technology, describes methods that planet hunters have used (spectroscopic methods, astrometric detection, interferometry, microlensing, transit studies, and direct imaging through the use of a coronagraphic mask in the focal plane a camera). Although most of these methods require sophisticated technology and painstaking analysis, he explains each term or concept as it is introduced. He makes the science seem simple enough for lay readers to grasp and explains the strengths and limitations of each method.
The rest of the book looks ahead to programs that are planned for the future, including telescopes in space and larger, more sophisticated instruments here on Earth. Some of these programs are already funded and will begin soon. Others are nd ambitious ideas that may not be attempted for years, if they ever happen at all.
Dorminey explains current ideas about formation of planets and discusses the search for Earth-like planets and for chemical signatures of extraterrestrial life. Through interviews with numerous researchers and experts, he presents information on what has already been learned about extrasolar planets and gives readers a feeling for the personalities and activities involved in doing this kind of research. In the process of writing Distant Wanderers, Dorminey himself wandered to far-off places, meeting the scientists and visiting the telescopes that are searching for extrasolar planets. His reports on his travels make the book much more human, interesting, and also tell us something about the writer.
After a visiting the European South Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile's Atacama Desert, Dorminey wrote, "After a night on an observatory mountain, E-mails left unanswered and faxes gone missing seem trivial indeed. I knew that a thousand miles south and several thousand miles north, the world was racing hither and yon. But for me, at that moment, my own existence seemed as precarious as the shallow atmosphere separating us from the nothingness beyond. If only for a fleeting minute, it was impossible not to imagine Earth as it really is: an oasis in the midst of a relative void."
Perhaps you can't quit your day job to make a grand tour of observatories. If that's the case, buy this book and read it. I learned and enjoyed. So will you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A "must read" for all SETI & planet-hunter enthusiasts!, Feb. 21 2002
By 
Matthew G. Deboard "Matt DeBoard" (Orlando, FL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Distant Wanderers: The Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System (Hardcover)
Starting with the theory behind planet formation and working through all of the current methods utilized in the search for planets outside our solar system, the author artfully balances readability with fact-filled data on the evolving story of the race to discover Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars. This is a technical non-fiction book that reads like a fast-action thriller! You really get a good sense of the personalities involved in this latest "space race". Pictures and graphs accentuate important points. The book ends with a fascinating history and outlook for the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program. I couldn't put it down.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent coverage of a complex topic..., Feb. 6 2002
By 
John Rummel (Madison, WI) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Distant Wanderers: The Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System (Hardcover)
In February of 1990, JPL operators turned on Voyager I's camera for one last task, the so-called "family portrait" of our solar system. Though it was nearly 3.8 billion miles distant at the time, Voyager's camera was able to image the planet Earth - barely a 5th magnitude speck (Sagan's "pale blue dot") about a degree away from the -19th magnitude sun.
While Voyager's instruments were not designed with the detection of planets around distant stars in mind, that pixel-wide photo of planet Earth gives some appreciation for the difficulty of the task. Imagine trying to detect Earth from our nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri, which is 7000 times more distant than Voyager I was when the family photo was snapped.
Bruce Dorminey's excellent new book "Distant Wanderers" does a great job of conveying the exquisite difficulty of extra solar planet hunting. What I had always thought of as a relatively narrow focus for a few astronomers turns out to be an incredibly rich and diverse field. As older technologies are adapted, and new technologies are developed, the field is undergoing an explosive growth phase, characterized by a dizzying array of new discoveries and tantalizing hints of discoveries yet to come.
Dorminey spent over two years traveling to conferences, observatories, or any place he could find astronomers. He collected both narratives of their research as well as some personal asides on their motives and desires (though the emphasis is decidedly on the science). The text is written in the spirit of Overbye and Lightman. Distant Wanderers is scientific story telling at its best, as Dorminey introduces us to scientists who are not as well known as Butler and Marcy. The story of French scientist Antione Labeyrie (p. 103) and his attempt to develop instrumentation for the Hubble Space telescope for use in planet hunting is political and scientific irony at its ugliest and best.
Instead of a glossary at the end of the book (which I find that I almost never use), Dorminey has peppered the chapters with indented asides containing definitions of major terms in bold print. These are placed in contextually logical places and I found them to be helpful and interesting while reading the text.
It would be hard to overstate the rapid pace of change in this field. As I read "Distant Wanderers," it became clear that the search for extra solar planets has forced astrophysicists and geologists to clarify their definitions of both "star" and "planet," and Dorminey gives ample room to a discussion of both concepts along the way.
Dorminey's book also contains what is perhaps the best description I've ever read of how optical interferometry can measure the diameters of super giant stars, and the efforts being made today to extend the use of optical interferometry to the search for planets around other stars. His ability to take thorny scientific issues and explain them in terms anyone can understand is excellent.
Distant Wanderers joins two other excellent books on this topic: Worlds Unnumbered by Donald Goldsmith and Planet Quest by Ken Crosswell, both also well worth reading.
Is the field changing so fast that "Distant Wanderers" will quickly be obsolete? Perhaps, but that is the risk taken by any science writer willing to take on a timely topic. If you're looking for a good general work on how the search for extra solar planets works, this book will remain a standard for many years to come.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Lay Reader's Summary of Distant Wanderers, Jan. 26 2002
By 
Bill Gresham (Houston, Texas) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Distant Wanderers: The Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System (Hardcover)
Distant Wanderers is a brillant and "Must Read" book for the aspiring young astronomer as well as lay person. There should be a copy in every library of all colleges and universities in the USA. This book forces the reader to stretch the imagination and realize the vastness and wonders of the universe and how little we really know of its magnificence.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The culmination of a century of experiments, Jan. 11 2002
This review is from: Distant Wanderers: The Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System (Hardcover)
Distant Wanderers: The Search For Planets Beyond The Solar System by Paris-based journalist in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics Bruce Dorminey is an amazing look at the practice of searching for planetary systems other than the nine familiar solar system planets all schoolchildren know and love. Around the world, from a Chilean desert outpost to atop a Hawaiian volcano, scientists have been searching; sometimes cooperatively, sometimes in fierce competition, for evidence of extra solar planet systems. The culmination of a century of experiments, work, calculations, and speculations are presented all within one fascinating book, Distant Wanderers is enthusiastically recommended for personal and academic astronomy reference collections and reading lists.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great book about this cutting edge topic, Dec 20 2001
By 
Fraser Cain (Vancouver, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Distant Wanderers: The Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System (Hardcover)
Probably the most exciting aspect of modern astronomy is the recent discovery of planets orbiting other star systems. The techniques for finding them 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.
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Distant Wanderers: The Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System
Distant Wanderers: The Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System by Bruce Dorminey (Hardcover - Nov. 1 2001)
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