Illustrated with breathtaking images of the Solar System and of the Universe around it, this book explores how the discoveries within the Solar System and of exoplanets far beyond it come together to help us understand the habitability of Earth, and how these findings guide the search for exoplanets that could support life. The author highlights how, within two decades of the discovery of the first planets outside the Solar System in the 1990s, scientists concluded that planets are so common that most stars are orbited by them.
The lives of exoplanets and their stars, as of our Solar System and its Sun, are inextricably interwoven. Stars are the seeds around which planets form, and they provide light and warmth for as long as they shine. At the end of their lives, stars expel massive amounts of newly forged elements into deep space, and that ejected material is incorporated into subsequent generations of planets.
How do we learn about these distant worlds? What does the exploration of other planets tell us about Earth? Can we find out what the distant future may have in store for us? What do we know about exoworlds and starbirth, and where do migrating hot Jupiters, polluted white dwarfs, and free-roaming nomad planets fit in? And what does all that have to do with the habitability of Earth, the possibility of finding extraterrestrial life, and the operation of the globe-spanning network of the sciences?
Karel Schrijver, is a stellar astrophysicist specialized in the study of the Sun and the space around it, stellar magnetism and its impacts on the environments of planets, and space weather. He was lead scientist and Principal Investigator on two of NASA's scientific spacecraft studying the Sun: TRACE and the Solar Dynamics Observatory. He (co-)authored over 200 research publications and articles. He wrote a textbook on solar and stellar magnetism, was lead editor on the five-volume series of Heliophysics books, and co-authored a popular science book entitled Living with the Stars (OUP, 2015) about the connections between the human body, the Earth, the planets, and the stars.
1: From one to astronomical
2: One step short of life
3: Exploring the Solar System
4: Exoplanet systems and their stars
5: The birth of stars and planets
6: Drifting through a planetary system
7: Lone rovers
8: Aged stars and disrupted exosystems
9: The worlds of exoplanets
10: Habitability of planets and moons
11: The long view of planetary systems
12: Living on a pale blue dot