Planet Factory

Planet Factory: Exoplanets and the Search for a Second Earth
by Elizabeth Tasker
To be published: November 2017

In a fantastic primer for budding planetary scientists or armchair explorers, astrophysicist Elizabeth Tasker shares her passion and expertise for the astronomical sciences. Planet Factory chips away at the mountains of exoplanet research and presents it in approachable chunks of historical context, current research and exciting conjecture. Tasker describes how celestial bodies emerge from swirling space dust, details prevailing theories for the varying compositions of known planets and explores the incomprehensibly strange worlds that exist in distant systems (hot Jupiters, super Earths and rogue planets, oh my!).

4 out of 5 stars: There were some stretches of text in the middle that felt a bit tedious and recursive, going through the litany of possible explanations for any findings that didn’t fit neatly into the currently accepted theories. But hey, that’s science! The repetitive circular critique of hypotheses is both a strength and weakness in the text: it was honestly very refreshing to have each theory delineated with a little dollop of doubt, teaching the reader to question and critically assess previous explanations when presented with new evidence. It’s even addressed point-blank in the introduction: any scientist trying to report this amount of interstellar research as fact with the pretense that ‘we’ve got it all figured out’ is doing a disservice to the reader and to the field. Overall, this is a very friendly introduction to the awe-inspiring mysteries of our universal neighbors.

Sidenote: I was a little surprised to see no mention of the TRAPPIST-1 system until I realized that announcement was just made February of this year, so of course the author didn’t have time to cram in a whole new chapter of reactions to these 7 little buddies and their ultra-cool dwarf. That said, this book leaves me feeling well-equipped to tackle the news of exoplanet discoveries on my own.

// I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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