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Publisher's Summary

As recently as 1990, it seemed plausible that the solar system was a unique phenomenon in our galaxy. Thanks to advances in technology and clever new uses of existing data, now we know that planetary systems and possibly even a new Earth can be found throughout galaxies near and far. 
We are living during a new golden age of planetary discovery, with the prospect of finding many worlds like Earth. Most of the thousands of planets we've detected can't be imaged directly, but researchers are able to use subtle clues obtained in ingenious ways to assemble an astonishing picture of planetary systems far different from our own. We are in the midst of an astronomical revolution, comparable to the Copernican revolution that established our current view of the solar system - and we invite you to take part. 
Embark on this unrivaled adventure in 24 lectures by a veteran planet hunter. Designed for everyone from armchair explorers to serious skywatchers, The Search for Exoplanets follows the numerous twists and turns in the hunt for exoplanets - the false starts, the sudden breakthroughs, and the extraordinary discoveries. Explore systems containing super-Earths, mini-Neptunes, lava worlds, and even stranger worlds. You also get behind-the-scenes information on the techniques astronomers used to find evidence of planets at mind-boggling distances from our home base. Learn how astronomers determine how many planets are in a system as well as how large they are and the characteristics of their atmospheres. You will feel like Dr. Watson in the presence of Sherlock Holmes as Professor Winn extracts a wealth of information from a spectrum, a light graph, a diffraction pattern, and other subtle clues.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 
©2015 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2015 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Mark on 01-08-16

Fun across the universe

This lecture series is interesting and fun. As a non-astronomer, with close to zero knowledge about stars and planets beyond our own solar system, I was curious to find out what could possibly be known about unimaginably distant planets, when the only data we have to inform us are tiny dots of light in the night sky. And those tiny dots of light aren’t even planets, they are stars, so how the heck can we know if these stars even have planets orbiting them, when these can't be seen by the most powerful telescopes.

But, quite a lot is known, or rather, has been deduced, by a bunch of extremely clever space geeks who have analysed the light emanating from distant stars and noticed that this light changes ever-so-slightly whenever a planet crosses in front of a star. This event, called a ‘transit’, is relatively rare, because the planet has to be positioned exactly between us and the star for this to occur. So it is roughly as rare as an eclipse would be in our solar system. But, fortunately for us, there are billions of stars out there - and so even a relatively rare event will occur enough times to supply the astronomers with lots of information about the size, orbit periods (‘years’) and composition of these planets.

So there’s lots of good stuff in this lecture series, narrated in an excellent and interesting style, and, unlike other lecture series I’ve listened to, this one is right up to date - recorded in 2015.

I learnt that the majority of solar systems in the universe have two or more suns orbiting around each other, rather than just the one as in our solar system. How come we can’t see these twin or triplet stars? Because, from a great distance they appear as just one blob of light.

And I also learnt that stars are classified by their luminosity according to this sequence of letters: o,b,f,g,k,m,l,t and y, in descending order of brightness where 'o' is the brightest and 'y' is the faintest (our sun is a 'g' star). This sequence is easily committed to memory using the mnemonic 'Old Bald Fat Guys Kiss More Ladies Than You'. This proves two things: Firstly, that space geeks have a sense of humour, and secondly, that the first sentence of my review is true.

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25 of 26 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Trevor on 07-17-16


If you 1) love looking at the night sky, 2) love wondering what or who is out there, and 3) take interest in technical details at least of middle-level sophistication (for example, there are five different methods of planet-hunting, each treated in detail and involving their own brief physics lessons), I would recommend this listen for sure! The professor is very well-spoken and genial. And the subject matter is treated with an eye to the future — no arrogance at all in assuming that what's known today is anything close to what we'll know some day. It's the past, present and future of the exoplanet search. One note: if you are interested especially in the search for intelligent life, you may be left wanting more. The bulk of the course is the nuts and bolts of exoplanetary science, and it so happens that many planets found are not thought to be life candidates. But all the background knowledge will help you appreciate why it's so challenging to find life candidates. Our technological challenges so far have actually seemed biased against detecting such planets. I think it's a fascinating story, well-told.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Diwotti on 05-10-16

A wonderful listen. Highly recommended!

Would you consider the audio edition of The Search for Exoplanets: What Astronomers Know to be better than the print version?

I'm just an ordinary chap with an interest in many subjects including astronomy. I found this audible book very informative and even very exciting in places. Professor Winn explains everything with clarity and enthusiasm. I will, in the near future, revisit this audible book and listen to it again. Highly recommended!

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Michael McDaid on 12-05-15

Coming to a planet near you

This was a well structured romp through the very topical and exciting field of extra solar planetary science by a research scientist working in the field. As such it was highly informative, detailed and broad ranging, covering the historical background and recent (at the time of presentation) developments in this fast changing area. Pretty much everything you need to know to follow current and future discoveries is here.

The course does not require extensive prior knowledge or higher mathematics, but neither does it try to attains a kind of intellectual Goldilocks level of comfort! The performance as also excellent making this a real gem of a course for those interested in the subject matter. Strongly recommended!

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Sven on 04-26-18

It's a rabbit-hole. Enjoy.

What did you like most about The Search for Exoplanets: What Astronomers Know?

Amazing topic! The delivery is superb, although I have to admit, I nearly gave up in the opening chapter when I realised the professor was using both imperial and metric systems. Seriously America, grow up and get with the program - you're holding the rest of us back.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Search for Exoplanets: What Astronomers Know?

Just like that scene in The Matrix when Neo's eyes snap open and he famously says "Woah - I know kung-fu!" - yeah, it's that kind of journey.

What does Professor Joshua N. Winn bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

It's VERY clear that this guy knows his topic. I don't know how closely he "stuck to the script", but I was often under the impression that he was delivering his wisdom and insight as unscripted brilliance, rather that narrated facts.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Successfully generated wonder, and the buzz you get from eureka moments.

Any additional comments?

I can't let that whole, annoying imperial measuring system thing go. It really, really bugged me, although that was the ONLY criticism I have for this superb book. A truly great addition to The Great Courses series!

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5 out of 5 stars
By Praveen on 07-28-16

Wonderful science

Love the way science is progressing as far as Exoplanets are concerned. Good narration or lecture.

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