By: Deborah Kops
Publisher: Lerner Pub Group
Publication Date: August 2011
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 2012
When you peer into the nighttime sky you can often see millions of stars overhead, but you cannot see any planets. The reason you can't see them is because "unlike stars, planets do not give off their own light." Planets, including Earth, are round bodies that orbit stars. Earth, along with seven other planets, travels or orbits around the Sun (which is a star). When we talk about the Sun and its planets we are talking about our solar system. Other planets which orbit around stars in other solar systems are called exoplanets. We cannot see them when we look into the nighttime skies, but astronomers, using powerful telescopes, "have discovered more than five hundred exoplanets" since the 1990s.
Astronomers have different names for the different types of exoplanets they have discovered. For example, large ones are called Jupiters and ones that have a close orbit to a star are called Hot Jupiters. Smaller exoplanets, even though they may be larger than our Earth, are called Neptunes. Those that similarly have close orbits like the Hot Jupiters are called Hot Neptunes. In this book you'll get a more detailed explanation of these exoplanets and you'll get to see a visual representation of the Gliese 582 solar system in comparison to ours. You'll also learn how exoplanets are discovered, what astronomers know when they see a star wobble or see light dip, you'll learn about observatories, telescopes, spacecrafts, and the "future search for exoplanets."
The beginning nonfiction text and layout of the book make the world of exoplanets easy for the young student to understand. The book is generously illustrated with photographs and artistic renditions that provide visuals for the topic at hand. For example, when the Gaia spacecraft and its mission is being discussed, there are illustrations of the craft and an artistic rendition of a Hot Jupiter and asteroids orbiting a star, a scene the Gaia would try to capture. Captions are factual, adding additional information to the text, but also pose questions for the student to think about. This is a vibrant book that would appeal to a wide range of readers, including reluctant ones. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.
Quill says: This is an exciting look at how astronomers are discovering and studying exoplanets.