The Crowded Universe (Hardcover)

The Search for Living Planets

By Alan Boss

Basic Books, 9780465009367, 256pp.

Publication Date: February 1, 2009



From one of the leaders of the search for extrasolar planets, a riveting account of the next breakthrough: the imminent discovery of planets similar to Earth.

About the Author

One of the world's leading authorities on the formation of stars and planets, Alan Boss is a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. He has been elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Meteoritical Society, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Praise For The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets

Debra Fischer, Professor of Astronomy, San Francisco State University
“Alan Boss is widely respected for his scientific research and for his ability to clearly convey forefront research to the public. The Crowded Universe is a delightful read that chronicles the twists and turns of the birth and evolution of the rapidly evolving field of exoplanet discovery.”

Michel Mayor, Professor of Astronomy, University of Geneva
“The discovery of exoplanets has transformed modern astronomy. In The Crowded Universe, renowned expert Alan Boss offers an exciting insider’s account of the quest for other Worlds.”

Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal of Great Britain
“The search for life beyond the Earth, and the study of planets orbiting other stars, are surely among the most fascinating topics in 21st century science. Alan Boss offers a clear and masterly guide to these exciting and fast-moving subjects.”

Dr. Paul Butler, Carnegie Institution of Washington
“In the past decade we have gone from complete ignorance of extrasolar planets to the verge of finding habitable planets. In The Crowded Universe, Alan Boss gives an extraordinary inside look at the people and events that have shaped the field. The excitement of discovery shines in Boss's elegant prose, and the work of centuries is seamlessly assembled for the non-expert reader."

Professor Geoff Marcy, Center for Integrative Planetary Science, UC Berkeley
"Rarely is the history of science so accurately told as in this lively and authoritative book. Alan Boss offers insights about our terrestrial origins, our extraterrestrial brethren, and our destiny in the Galaxy, placing our Earth in the cosmic context for the first time."

Dr. Frank Drake, Director, Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, SETI Institute CIRC
The Crowded Universe is a thorough depiction of the events and people involved in one of the greatest milestones in the history of science: the detection of other planetary systems in the Milky Way. The author is one of the primary players in this ongoing saga, and he tells the story with commendable detail. If you want to see how science works at its best, read this book.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History and author of The Pluto Files
“The search for planets outside our solar system has become a cottage industry. In The Crowded Universe, Alan Boss weaves a ‘you are there’ narrative that reaches behind the scenes of this thrilling new field, exposing the reader to the people, the politics, and the sheer joy of doing science.”

"Solid coverage of one of the most exciting topics in science."

Scientific American
“Astronomer Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Washington predicts that CoRoT and Kepler will discover abundant Earths. These telescopes are poised to prove him right or wrong, and his book provides essential and fascinating background as the drama unfolds.”

“The space race is on. No, not back to the moon. The next great achievement for humanity will be to find alien life on another planet. Astronomer Boss gives an inside view of how new space telescopes like Kepler and Corot are on the verge of finding Earth-like worlds around other stars.”

New Scientist
"Boss recounts the exhilarating tale of the race to discover the first truly Earth-like exoplanet. As The Crowded Universe unfolds, it brings alive the thrills and disappointments of bleeding-edge science, the fierce competition between American and European planet-hunting teams and the politics of billion-dollar research. Along the way we learn the latest theories on how planets form and just how astronomers detect distant worlds too faint to see."

BBC Focus Magazine
"If Alan Boss's excellent new book is anything to go by, the next few years could see some dramatic revelations about our cosmic neighbourhood... In 'The Crowded Universe' he skilfully recounts how astronomers have gradually become better acquainted with the exoplanets - planets orbiting stars other than the Sun... This is top-notch-and-timely popular science meets page-turning political intrigue."

Natural History
“In this short and lucid review of his field, [Boss] traces the developments of the last fifteen years in chronological, diarylike entries, so that we can share with him the excitement of discovery…. The tone of Boss’s book, accordingly, is excited and hopeful, but there’s also a note of wry irony in his descriptions of the political trials astronomers have gone through trying to promote their research. And despite the successes of the past decade, Boss senses that it may be increasingly difficult for astronomers to attract the sums needed to continue the search for habitable planets. Readers of this book, I am certain, will hope his fears are unsubstantiated.”

Space Times
“[The Crowded Universe] is a stunning story, recasting scientists as detectives developing and using new tools to expand knowledge of our exciting universe.”

“[T]he book reads like an adventure yarn, reminiscent of archaeologists looking for fabled lost cities…. [A] thoroughly fascinating account.”