The search for extraterrestrial life

by Lucas Ellerbroek
“This lively volume reveals the human face of the researchers who search for the ultimate prize: proof of extraterrestrial life.” — Selected for Books of the Year, 2017 – The Times
“In this delightful scientific chronicle of humanity’s quest for ‘other worlds’, astronomer Lucas Ellerbroek mixes memoir, history and meetings with remarkable planet hunters.” — Nature
“Ellerbroek is particularly skilled at inserting the “astronomy backstory,” giving accessible introductions to both historical ideas and cutting-edge research, and showing how big questions are teased into empirical science. […] As a reader, I felt the excitement as incremental progress slowly pulled those who search for habitable planets from the fringes to the limelight, not just giving exoplanetary research solid scientific standing but making it the “party you really want to gatecrash.” — Science
“Is there Beer in Space?” — Excerpt of Planet Hunters – Chapter 9, published by Nautilus
“Lucas Ellerbroek highlights the passion of exoplanet researchers as they learn about the countless planets circling other stars.” — Selected for Best Space Books,
“Science can be extremely difficult and complicated, but it is very easy to like it and love it.” — Interview with Lucas on
“Meticulous and well-researched, but not dull, Planet Hunters is infused with […] enthusiasm” — Shelf Awareness
“Selected for “Best Science Books of summer 2017” — Unbound Worlds
Other reviews of “Planet Hunters”:

**** – “Ellerbroek is a gifted author. He guides the reader through a complex discipline using clear, short sentences. Skilfully sticking to the main lines of the argument without getting bogged down in details, he is both teacher and storyteller. Few professional astronomers can put themselves in the place of the wider public so effectively.” – , Govert Schilling, De Volkskrant

**** – “Ellerbroek describes this voyage of discovery with enthusiastic energy.” – , Margriet van der Heijden, NRC

“Ellerbroek is the Jacques Cousteau of the Universe” – Jelle Brandt Corstius

***** – “A refined and enthusiastic style, a multitude of stories about the leading figures in this field, and a strong dose of humour make this book easy to read and compelling to the last page.” (selected for best books of 2014) – , Jean Paul Keulen, Kijk

“A fascinating history of astronomy” , Wim Brands, VPRO Boeken

“Ellerbroek has produced an exciting adventure book”
– Marcel Grauls, Het Belang van Limburg,

“A classic example of popular scientific writing […] Beautifully crafted […] Everything about this book is perfect.”
– Taede A. Smedes ,

“Ellerbroek succeeds in arousing the curiosity of the reader in spectacular fashion.” – Nieke, ,

“Ellerbroek does an excellent job of explaining the current search for new planets to the lay reader.” – Weet ,

Planetenjagers number 5 in the top 12 Best Books of 2014 (New Scientist)
“Planetenjagers leest […] net wat vlotter en is net iets leuker geschreven.” – George van Hal

Other reviews and interviews in Dutch media

On the morning of 10 October 1995, the professor was driving along the long, winding road. He had every reason to feel emotional. He had spent four long nights at the observatory on Mount Wilson, a mountain top near Los Angeles. And for four nights, he had observed the same star. There was no other conclusion possible: the report from Italy was right.
He had previously scrapped the star from his list. It was different in size and composition to the Sun; it wasn’t the kind of star around which he expected to find planets. The professor was only interested in stars that did resemble the Sun, and he had more than 100 on his regular schedule. Every night he drove to the telescope to observe them. He had a research programme that had already been running for twelve years, the last seven of which he had spent on non-stop observation. His aim was to see at least one of the stars make a movement that would indicate the presence of a massive planet.

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Lucas Ellerbroek

Credit: Sacha de Boer



Astronomers are on the verge of answering one of the most profound questions ever asked: are we alone in the universe? The ability to detect life in remote solar systems is at last within sight. Its discovery, even if only in microbial form, would revolutionize our self- image. Planet Hunters tells a delightful tale of smart-alec nerds, the search for extraterrestrial life and the history of an academic discipline.

Professional astronomer Lucas Ellerbroek takes readers on a fantastic voyage through space, time, history and the future. He describes the field of exoplanet research in its proper historical perspective, from the early ideas of sixteenth-century heretic Giordano Bruno and the rise of science fiction to the discovery of the first exoplanet in 1995 and the invention of the Kepler space telescope.

He travels the world to talk to leading scientists in the field, including first exoplanet discoverer Michel Mayor, NASA Kepler mission scientist Bill Borucki and MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager. Presenting cutting-edge research in a dynamic, fun and accessible way, this book will appeal to everyone with an interest in astronomy and space.

Planet Hunters 3D
“There are thousands of planets like the Earth out there, hundreds of lightyears distant, waiting to be discovered. Ellerbroek describes this exciting adventure, which is now entering a new and very significant phase, in colourful detail.”
Nobel Prize Physics 1999,
Professor theoretical physics (UU)
“A compelling adventure full of surprising details that show why astronomy is so fascinating..
Professor mathematical physics (UvA),
Director and Leon Levy Professor (IAS, Princeton)
“In this timely book by Lucas Ellerbroek, the characters who have participated in the discovery of these other worlds share their personal stories. Discoveries are made by individuals, thanks to their vision, enthusiasm and perseverance, and also through friendship, collaboration and competition. Planet Hunters is a lively fresco of that international endeavour. .
Professor of Astrophysics (University of Geneva),
Discoverer of the first exoplanet
“Planet Hunters by Lucas Ellerbroek provides dozens of delightful (and sometimes humorous) histories of individuals who thought and wrote about planets and life around other stars before the recent discoveries provided facts. It is both informative and a pleasure to read. I highly recommend it..
Kepler Principal Investigator (NASA Ames Research Center)

“Ellerbroek has written a captivating, up-close-and-personal chronicle of this remarkable burst of discovery. .
Senior Astronomer (SETI Institute)

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